Is an energy conservation program beneficial in rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Updated: Mar 05, 2021
  • Author: Howard R Smith, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Fatigue is a major component of RA, and it is due to the systemic nature of the disease, as well as to the decreased cardiovascular endurance observed in patients with this inflammatory disorder.

The goal of energy conservation techniques is to save energy while maximizing function. Adaptive equipment is an essential part of this program. Other elements include maintaining joint ROM and strength, improving cardiovascular fitness, and taking short rest periods during the day. Every individual with RA should implement joint-protection and energy-conservation programs into his or her lifestyle.

Williams et al found that in older women with either RA or osteoarthritis of the lower limb, an individualized home program of balance-training exercise can improve balance and gait stability. [154] In this study, 39 women (mean age, 69.3 years) underwent a 4-month program of balance exercises conducted by a physical therapist. Before exercise training, 64% of patients reported having had fallen during the previous 12 months, and 42% of patients had a moderate fall-risk score.

After the 4-month program, the patients demonstrated improvement on most balance measurements, including their fall-risk score and measurements of activity level, fear of falling, functional reach, and step width. [154] Improvements were also seen in patients’ body mass index (BMI) and in their sit-to-stand rising index.

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