Although arthritis is a chronic condition, patients can still lead active lives with a manageable amount of pain, fatigue and disability, especially if they follow a daily exercise routine.
Exercise reduces joint pain and stiffness, and increases flexibility, muscle strength, and endurance. It also helps with weight reduction and enhances a sense of well-being.
Studies for instance, have shown that strengthening the quadriceps muscles can reduce knee pain and disability associated with osteoarthritis. One study shows that a relatively small increase in strength (20-25 percent) can lead to a 20-30 percent decrease in the chance of developing osteoarthritis of the knee.
What Are the
Kind of Exercises for Arthritis that a Patient Can Follow?
There are three main categories:
- Range-of-motion: To maintain normal joint movement and relieve stiffness. These types of exercises aid in joint mobility and flexibility.
- Strengthening exercises: To increase the strength of muscles that support the joints affected by arthritis.
- Aerobic or endurance exercises: They improve cardiovascular fitness, control weight and improve overall body function.
Weight control is
important in arthritis because extra weight puts extra pressure on joints.
Aerobics also reduce inflammation in some joints.
How Does One Start an Exercise Program for Osteoarthritis?
A skilled physician, knowledgeable about the medical and rehabilitation needs of people with arthritis or physical therapists, can design effective exercise plans for each patient. Depending upon the severity of the condition, the doctor will either recommend his own exercises or refer you to a physical therapist. The latter will know about pain-relief methods, proper body mechanics (placement of the body for a given task, such as lifting a heavy box), joint protection, and energy conservation.
For starters, one should stick to easy, range-of-motion exercises or low-impact aerobics.
How Often Should You Exercise?
- Range-of-motion: Either daily or every other day.
- Strengthening exercises: Every other day.
- Endurance exercises: For 20 to 30 minutes three times a week.
When To Exercise
In general, it is best to exercise:
- At a specific time and place
- When you have the least pain and stiffness
- When you are not tired
- When your arthritis medication is having the most effect
Different Exercises for People With Different Types of Arthritis?
Experienced doctors, physical therapists, and occupational therapists can recommend exercises that are helpful for specific types of arthritis or specific joint pain issues.
How Much Exercise
Is Too Much?
Experts suggest that you must stop as soon as you begin to feel lingering pain. You might feel some discomfort during exercise which can be expected if your muscles have atrophied. Reduce your arthritis exercise program whenever you notice any of the following signs:
- Unusual or persistent fatigue
- Increased weakness
- Decreased range of motion
- Increased joint swelling
- Continuous pain (pain that lasts more than one hour after exercising)
Stop right away if:
- You have chest tightness or pain, or severe shortness of breath
- If you feel dizzy, faint, or sick to your stomach
- Apply heat to sore joints (optional; many people with arthritis start their exercise program this way).
- Start strengthening exercises slowly with small weights (a 1 or 2 pound weight can make a big difference).
- Progress slowly. Exercise at a comfortable, steady pace and give your muscles time to relax between each repetition.
- Use cold packs after exercising (optional; many people with arthritis complete their exercise routine this way).
- Consider appropriate recreational exercise. Fewer injuries to arthritic joints occur during recreational exercise if it is preceded by range-of-motion, strengthening, and aerobic exercise that gets your body in the best condition possible.
- Ease off if joints become painful, inflamed, or red and work with your doctor to find the cause.
- Breathe while you exercise. Don't hold your breath. Counting out loud during the exercise will help you breathe deeply and regularly.
- Heat relaxes your joints and muscles and helps relieve pain. Mild heat gives the best results. Apply it for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Lastly, choose exercises that you enjoy most, this will help provide motivation.