Does Exercise Help With Arthritis Pain?
Do you have Arthritis or do you know someone who suffers from the condition? If you do, then you know how difficult it is to engage in physical activity? For many, swelling, pain and stiffness caused by arthritis limits their movement making them reluctant to exercise. But what if I told you that exercise could alleviate some of the pain. Yes indeed. It can. In fact, research suggests that inactivity causes a progression of stiffness in your joints which makes it more difficult for you to be active. Furthermore, inactivity due to arthritic pain can lead to other chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is the general term doctors use to describe disease of the joint. It involves inflammation of the joining bones and surrounding tissue. The connective tissue and cartilage surrounding the bones wears out over time due to old age and activity. Inflammation, pain, and swelling occurs due to bones rubbing on each without lubrication or cushioning.
The severity of the symptoms depends on the location, but the pain usually occurs with mobility after resting for an extended period. Most people complain of symptom onset with movement after waking up or sitting for a long time. While there is not a cure for arthritis, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms including but not limited to diet, exercise and medication. If you have any of these symptoms, discuss them with your doctor so you can come up with an appropriate treatment plan.
There is about 100 different type of arthritis, but the two most common types are Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Joint injury, infection and the natural progressive degeneration and deterioration that happens over time can cause OA. Scientists also suggest that some arthritis such as OA can be familial. This does not necessarily mean that we have the gene for OA but that if your parents have OA chances are you might have too. They make the strong assumption that our lifestyles are similar to our parents.
Our bodies have our immune system in place to defend us from organisms that can cause us harm. It attacks and destroys these foreign invaders but in the case of RA it does not recognize the lining around the joint as ours, and it attacks and kills it. This causes the symptoms associated with RA.
Activities That Cause Arthritis
Being overweight adds a lot of stress to our joints. Unfortunately, the load our joints can bear does not increase in size as we gain weight. Our joints and our bones remain the same size. I wonder what we would look like if they did get bigger? Losing some weight will help decrease joint pain. Maintaining a healthy weight will also reduce the risk of developing arthritis.
Injury and excessive use of your joints can lead to arthritis. Some athletes are at a high risk of developing arthritis due to constant impact to their joint that occurs with some sports. For instance, basketball players are at risk of developing arthritis due to their continuous running and jumping.
Ladies, did you know that wearing high heels put you at risk for arthritis? Yes, Mam!!! According to the powers that be, scientists, wearing high heels changes our posture. (really!! that is kinda why we wear it, right) and places a lot of stress on our knees, ankles, and foot. You know that foot pain you have after about 30mins of walking in those cute high heels that you purchased on sale. Guess what? You might be setting yourself up for arthritis. Yeah, girl. Well okay then, what is a girl to do but wear some flats — Doctors orders.
Chronic vs. Acute Arthritis Pain
The pain associated with arthritis can be described as acute or chronic. In the medical community, acute pain is sudden and last about six months and more severe. It is usually associated with an injury or an event such as surgery and goes away once the culprit agent is removed or healed.
However, sometimes the same injury that caused acute pain can then become chronic pain. Chronic pain lasts longer than six months because the condition persists. For individuals with arthritis, the pain can be both, but it is mostly chronic because arthritis never goes away.
Joint-Friendly Activities You Might Enjoy
The goal of your exercise program should be to maintain or improve motion (ROM) around your joints. Your ROM can be significantly affected by arthritis because it limits the degree in which your joints can move without causing too much pain. ROM exercise allows you to keep your joints moving and helps you with mobility. Do a quick check on your knees now. How much can you extend it? Is it painful? Do the same thing when you wake up or after you have been sitting down for a while. With regular exercise, over time your pain will decrease.
Here is a list of joint-friendly activities that you can try. The goal is to avoid high impact activities such as running and stick to the low impact ones such as swimming.
- Aquatic exercise helps improve strength and cardiovascular system
- Pilates improves flexibility, balance, increase muscle tone
- Yoga helps to increase balance and flexibility
- Walking helps improves cardiovascular system and burns calories
- Biking help improves the cardiovascular system and burns calories
- Weight training helps strengthens the muscles around the joint
- Elliptical Machine help improves the cardiovascular system and burns calories
- Tai chi helps improve balance
- Dancing (Zumba) help improve cardio and burns calories
- Rowing improve cardiovascular system and burns calories
- Barre helps improves flexibility and muscle tone
First, ask your doctor if it is OK to exercise. Upon getting the green light ask about restrictions. Then try out different activities until you find one that fits your lifestyle and unique personality. Not every exercise is for everyone. It is important to find something that you can stick to long term. Start slowly. Aim for a goal of 30mins a day for the most days of the week. You can also divide the sessions into three 10min sessions. Pace yourself. Every movement counts. Last but not least, you know your triggers, and you know your body. Avoid activities that will cause your arthritis to flare up.