The answer to this is a great big emphatic YES. Arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition and the temptation may be to avoid exercising as it can exacerbate the pain. However, regular, moderate exercise has been shown to help prevent the progression of the disease and it can also improve mobility and alleviate stiffness.
Although it can be painful initially to exercise, this should start to ease after a few minutes. If it doesn’t, you may need to stick to a fairly gentle exercise routine, focusing on stretching and building up to low impact activities like yoga or swimming.
Why Does Exercising Help?
Lack of exercises causes stiff arthritic joints to become stiffer, dry and unlubricated, leading to a further decline in mobility and increasing pain. The proper amount of movement – nothing too strenuous but enough to give the joints a workout – helps to nourish the cartilage, which is the part of the joint that is damaged by the progression of arthritis.
Exercising can also improve your overall fitness levels and enhance your quality of life. Exercise is shown to lift a person’s mood and may help to combat depression, which can be associated with arthritis.
You should aim to exercise for around 30 minutes a day for five days a week. If you can’t manage 30 minutes at first, try doing shorter bursts of exercise, maybe 10 minutes, throughout the day.
Among the exercises to try are:
- Tai Chi
- Water Aerobics
If you want to improve the range of motion in your joint, try some simple stretches to bend and straighten the joint or use light weights for a gentle workout. It is important not to overdo it so make sure you exercise with control and only do as much as feels comfortable.
As your joints start to become more supple and your fitness levels improve, you may be able to increase your workout to include some gentle strength training using weights. You should do this under the supervision of a fitness coach and always build up gradually. If your joints become swollen or painful it is important to stop and rest until they have returned to normal. Ice can help to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Coping with Arthritic Pain
Damage to cartilage in the joint caused by arthritis can lead to pain and stiffness, which may become severe. Painful, swollen joints lose their normal range of motion and this can have a detrimental impact on a person’s quality of life. There are several ways to manage the pain of arthritis including:
- Medications such as anti-inflammatories and corticosteroids. The latter may be injected directly into the joint.
- Physiotherapy exercises, which can help to improve the range of motion and strengthen the muscles around the joint.
- Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, which helps to relieve pressure on joints.
If you are planning to start exercising to reduce the pain of arthritis or improve your quality of life, it can be a good idea to talk to your orthopaedic surgeon who might be able to recommend some specific exercises for your particular form of arthritis. For example, speed walking can be beneficial for hip arthritis while someone with knee arthritis may experience improvement if they do yoga or aqua aerobics. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on exercising, in fact, one of the most effective forms of exercise is regular walking.
Joint Replacement Surgery
If you are experiencing severe arthritic pain that does not respond to non-surgical treatments of adjunct joint therapies, such as injections, you may wish to discuss joint replacement surgery.
Surgical implants are now a routine, low-risk form of surgery that can significantly reduce or eliminate pain, when offered to appropriate patients.