How will exercise help my Arthritis?
Exercise can provide many benefits for people suffering from Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis or other musculoskeletal injuries or disorders. In fact, some studies have determined that regular and appropriately prescribed exercise can be just as beneficial for arthritis as some pain medications. These benefits include:
- Reduced pain and stiffness in joints
- Improved range of movement
- Increased muscle mass and strength
- Improved quality of life and daily function
The hardest part about exercising with arthritis is getting started, especially if your pain levels are high. Accredited Exercise Physiologists will conduct a thorough assessment to determine exactly the right exercise for you and your body, and get you on the path to reducing your arthritis symptoms.
What type of exercise should I do?
Initially, hydrotherapy is a fantastic way to get yourself started with some exercise. The heated pool relaxes muscles and reduces pain, and the buoyancy allows exercises to be done standing up with reduced weight-bearing. The water can also add a resistance to movements, providing a source of basic strength training. To read more about hydrotherapy, click here
The muscles surrounding joints suffering from arthritis often lose strength and mass due to inactivity, placing even greater stress on the joint itself. With appropriately prescribed strength exercise, we can improve the strength of these muscles, which in turn reduces the direct stress placed on joints such as the knee, hip and spine. With less stress directly on the joint, pain and inflammation can be reduced.
Aerobic exercise is beneficial for overall health and fitness, which has often declined in patients suffering from arthritis that avoid exercise due to pain levels. Not all aerobic exercise is recommended, and it is good to start with something like cycling or swimming that doesn’t have the direct weight-bearing and impact that walking or running does.
Joints that are affected by arthritis often become stiff from disuse and lack the mobility they once had. Flexibility exercises such as stretching, Pilates and yoga can gradually increase the range of movement at these joints and reduce the associated pain and stiffness.
Is there anything I should be wary of?
Timing your exercise sessions can be important when managing arthritis. Osteoarthritis is often associated with greater pain and stiffness in the evenings, whilst stiffness and pain is often greater in the mornings for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis. This can differ from individual to individual, but generally, exercising around the middle of the day, when pain and stiffness are at their lowest point, is most effective.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is often associated with cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic co-morbidities, due to the inactivity and sedentary lifestyle it can result it. If this is the case, the Accredited Exercise Physiologist will be able to assess any other conditions and ensure that these are taken into account when exercise is prescribed.
Both types of arthritis can also have acute periods of inflammation that come and go in waves; an Accredited Exercise Physiologist will adjust exercise prescription during these flare-ups accordingly to reduce any further aggravation.