Exercises to ease arthritis
Posted on 10 February 2015
Struggling with arthritis? Here are a few pain-relieving exercises that could help.
Arthritis is nobody’s idea of fun: it’s painful, leaving you with sore, swollen joints –and it makes movement difficult and heavy exercise almost impossible. Oh, and it’s not just an old person’s ailment: it hits younger people too. So once you have it, what can you do about it?
While arthritis treatment usually involves medication, a tailor-made exercise regimen can help ease the pain and preserve your joints. Speak to your doctor, find out exactly what kind of arthritis you have (there are over 100 different types!), and then ask a physiotherapist to help you devise an exercise plan. Depending on which of your joints are affected (and how), here are some of the exercises you could include:
That’s right: exercise. Several studies have found that walking and muscle-strengthening exercises are safe and effective in reducing pain and disability in people with arthritis. If anything – and despite what you may have read – avoiding exercise when you have arthritis could cause further complications, from muscle loss to weight gain. Light weight training (again, consult your physio first!), cardio workouts or simply walking should do the trick.
Exercise… in water!
Your physio might recommend some low-impact exercise in a warm swimming pool. The warm water will help to increase your body temperature (and your circulation), while providing a healing combination of resistance under water (which will help boost your strength) and buoyancy (which takes some of the stress off your joints and muscles).
Not keen on the pool? Then speak to your physio about your options with weight machines, free weights or resistance bands. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that resistance training can improve muscle strength, physical functioning and pain in up to 75% of people who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee.
Many people with arthritis keep their affected joints bent (especially in the hands, knees and fingers), simply because it hurts too much to straighten them out. Trouble is, holding your joints in the same position for too long can cause permanent loss of mobility… and that only makes a bad situation worse. Range-of-motion (or ROM) exercises can help relieve stiffness by gently straightening and bending your joints in a controlled manner, so that they’re stretched to their ‘normal’ full extent.
One last thing…
As with any form of training, you’ll need to take things slowly, building your fitness up gradually and speaking to your doctor or physio about any problems you encounter. And if you have problems with heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, make sure you get clearance from your doctor before you go anywhere near a gym!