If you’re suffering from arthritis, maintaining a regular exercise routine can help ease pain and delay the progression of the condition.
When symptoms flare up, many arthritis sufferers abandon their exercise routines, fearing the activity will aggravate their joint pain and stiffness. However, staying sedentary can actually worsen the symptoms of arthritis, while moderate exercise can alleviate its effects.
Arthritis arises when joints become inflamed, or in the case of osteoarthritis, when the cushioning cartilage wears down and causes the bones in the joint to rub together. Arthritis is often a natural result of aging, but the condition can also result from a congenital defect or trauma. Joint pain (especially after activity), lack of mobility, and a grinding or cracking sound when the joint moves all typify the onset of arthritis. In severe cases, the joint may become contorted.
Such symptoms may dissuade arthritis sufferers from participating in an exercise routine. However, staying physically active comes with important health benefits that may actually help mediate the effects of the condition. Here are six important benefits of exercise that can help patients cope with arthritis symptoms.
1. MAINTAIN JOINT FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY
Regular movement keeps the joints lubricated and mobile, and can improve range of motion. Arthritis patients may want to try flexibility exercises such as lifting their arms above their heads and rolling their shoulders backward and forward. Stretching exercises that promote mobility can also ease joint stiffness.
2. INCREASE MUSCLE STRENGTH
Strengthening the muscles surrounding the compromised joint can protect it from further deterioration. Weightlifting, using resistance bands, and yoga can all increase muscle strength. However, working the same muscle group two consecutive days is not recommended. Instead, patients should rest between workouts to allow their bodies time to recover.
3. IMPROVE BALANCE
Arthritis sufferers sometimes feel unsteady on their feet. To prevent falls, they can improve their balance by practicing yoga or tai chi. Other balancing exercises include standing on one foot or walking backward in a straight line.
4. LESSEN DEPENDENCE TO PAIN MEDICATION
Anti-inflammatory and opioid medications in addition to corticosteroid injections may be prescribed to alleviate the pain of arthritis. But an exercise program that emphasizes flexibility and muscle strength can reduce pain, and, therefore, the need for regular medication.
5. PROMOTE PROPER CIRCULATION
Exercise not only boosts joint mobility and strength, it also revs up the body’s circulatory system. Physical activity rushes blood to the affected joints, flooding it with oxygen and nutrients. This increased blood flow can improve patients’ mobility and even promote healing in the joints.
6. PREVENT FUTURE INJURY TO JOINTS
Perhaps the best reason for those with arthritis to keep exercising is to prevent further damage to the joints. Inactivity allows the condition to progress to a point where a person’s quality of life may be severely diminished. On the other hand, exercising delays that progression as strong muscles provide support to affected joints.
RECOMMENDED EXERCISES FOR ARTHRITIS
The best exercises for arthritis sufferers are those that avoid excessive strain on the joints. Aerobic activities such as swimming, water aerobics, walking on smooth surfaces, or pedaling on a stationary or elliptical bike fall into this category. During exercise, patients should keep movements slow and steady. They should also slow down, modify their routine, or take a break if the joint swells or is extremely painful.
Arthritis shouldn’t stop anyone from exercising and enjoying an active lifestyle. If you’d like further guidance on how to exercise with arthritis, consult one of the physical therapists or orthopedic experts at New York Bone & Joint by booking an appointment.