Although there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common form. Getting an accurate diagnosis is important so you can get the proper treatment. For osteoarthritis, doctors prescribe a healthy dose of exercise as one of the primary treatment options. Arthritis can cause a vicious cycle of having joints that are painful to move and moving less because of the pain. Joints that aren’t exercised then become harder to move. Immobilization or severely restricting your range of motion can make arthritis worse.
Treatments for arthritis sufferers include medication; surgery; hot and cold therapy; physical therapy; and exercise. Both physical therapy and exercise involve moving the joints to keep them limber and relieve pain. That concept may seem strange if you’re suffering from achy or stiff joints since it can hurt to move them in the first place. How does exercise help joints? It keeps the muscles that surround them strong and fit. Strong muscles help support damaged joints. Strengthening the area around the joint also helps stabilize the connective tissue and relieve pain. Exercise also keeps the actual joint flexible and can gradually increase your range of motion.
Fortunately, there are many exercises that are safe. Cardiovascular exercises like walking, swimming and cycling keep you mobile and move those joints. Health experts recommend exercises that put hips and knees through a full range of motion. Your doctor or physical therapist may recommend leg swings, leg extensions, leg curls or straight leg raises. Yoga and tai chi offer great exercises for arthritis relief. Some forms of weight lifting exercises are also beneficial for people with arthritis, but normally the weight should provide very low resistance.
It’s important to go slowly and get advice from your doctor before you begin an exercise plan, since some moves may cause pain or injury. Typically, arthritis sufferers should avoid exercises that put lots of impact on joints. Even jogging can place ten times your body weight on your joints as both feet pound the pavement. If you have arthritis, you probably want to stay away from:
If you are overweight, exercising has the added benefit of helping you lose weight, which will reduce stress on your joints. Ask your doctor for more information on managing your arthritis. At St. Petersburg General Hospital, our physicians are specialists in arthritis and joint pain. Find more information about our treatment options and therapy on our website or call our Consult-A-Nurse® line at 727-341-4055 for a free physician referral.