Connective tissue

For the last year, I have been working with my specialist rheum physio on a gym programme and I have slowly become more mobile. I'm not running marathons (!) as my RA is fairly active and I am living with joint damage which will always slow me down, however I am not totally sedentary.

I am having problems that are not directly related to my joints but appear to stem from problems with my connective tissue - according to the professionals who spend a lot of time prodding and poking me. The soft tissue contracts so tightly that I am in need of regular and intensive treatment to ease it off. I am paying for weekly osteopathy sessions and see aforementioned physio for frequent reviews. They are both quite surprised at how quickly my muscles, tendons and ligaments can get so tight and knotted. It seems to not correlate with anything in particular and affects me from head to toe. Can RA affect the connective tissue in this way? Also, does anyone else experience anything similar, what helps you please?

Thanks in advance. :)

8 Replies

  • My physio explained to me the other day that RA can affect the soft tissue or any other part of our anatomy because it's a connective tissue disease. She said that, similarly to what you describe, my soft tissue is very tight and inflamed and is possibly the reason my nerves are so inflamed.

    She gives me exercises to do at home but also massages my muscles - particularly my calves and thighs which she feels are extremely tight. But my synovial joints are still fine some 8 months after stopping MTX and Hydroxy so I'm increasingly uncertain that my RA is actually RA anymore - perhaps it's morphed into a undifferentiated connective tissue disease (UCTD) now who knows. I know my lower back is very painful with what she tells me is OA presently - and my shoulders and jaw have intermittently been a pain as well. But mainly my problems have been soft tissue related from when RA symptoms first started - especially in my ankle and knee tendons recently. But it was in my hand tendons for ages too.

    I don't know enough about the positive benefits of massage or accupuncture but I'm guessing these might help - as long as you chose the practitoner carefully - maybe someone your physio could recommend? In some places I believe these can be available on the NHS. Swimming would probably be the ideal exercise although I find it very tedious personally!

  • Thanks for your reply. I find swimming very tedious too. :(

  • I find exercise in water very helpful for this stiffness and tightness (and pain) in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. I go to an Aquafit class in the local swimming pool as a follow-on from working originally in the hydrotherapy pool. The instructor knows about my problems and gives alternatives when she thinks I (and a few others) should not be doing a particular exercise.

  • Thanks for sharing this. Everyone suggests swimming but it's not my favourite. I find it dull and such a faff trying to getting dressed and undressed in a changing room.

  • Yes I have it in my connective tissue as well. My first consultant said that it sometimes happens in RA. When I'm having a really bad flare it feels like my arms are like twisted elastic bands and my husband was to help me straighten them. It's another joy of the disease. I tend to spend ages in the shower when my arms are really bad and smother myself in deep heat. I smell great lol ;)


  • I am allergic to deep heat and I found out the hard way! Note: do not smother yourself in anything without testing a small patch first, especially if you are a person with very sensitive skin. Eek!

    Thank you for your reply. Although I don't wish to share the pain, I'm glad it's not just me.

  • Hi Crashdoll,

    My neck and right should get the brunt of this side of my RA and I find a spell in a steam room helps and I rub in Vicks vapour rub when helps (clears my sinuses as well :) ) as I too cannot tolerate deep heat or tiger balm. I also find a gentle ( almost Imperceptible) back and neck massage last thing at night helps my muscles to relax - it helps my sleep as well.


  • Swimming & aqua fit. My son bought me a waterproof MP3 player, it's brilliant. I can now swim with all these lovely young men who sing to me, I try to stop myself from joining in!!!

    Can't use deep heat or anything like that either. Steam rooms great to after a swim.

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