Exercise and arthritis.
Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint.
In the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis. It affects people of all ages, including children.
The two most common types of arthritis are:
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It causes joint pain and stiffness. It usually develops gradually as we age. Several different joints can be affected, but osteoarthritis is most frequently seen in the hands, knees, hips, feet and spine.
Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but there is plenty you can do to relieve your symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. This means your immune system – which usually fights infection – attacks the cells that line your joints by mistake, making the joints swollen, stiff and painful and over time can damage the bone and cartilage. There are many different sub groups of RA and it can affect people of any age.
There is no cure for RA but recent research indicates that remission of symptoms is more likely if early medication treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs occurs. Other medications such as non- steroidal anti-inflammatories and steroids may also be of benefit.
Exercises may be of benefit for both OA and RA sufferers.
Exercise…..but it hurts to move?
Exercise may seem overwhelming when you are in pain. However, establishing a good exercise routine helps limit pain, maintains mobility, boosts energy and keeps muscles strong to support joints. It can also help prevent disability.
Exercise benefits most people, but, if you have arthritis, you will find that the benefits of regular exercise are particularly significant. It can assist in pain control and help you lead an independent life. Exercise is key in helping to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, which is one of the most effective things you can do to reduce some of the symptoms of arthritis. Even losing just a bit of excess weight can reduce strain on your back or the joints in your legs. Staying healthy is the key and making sure you are not underweight will help give your body the strength needed to get through a flare-up and to fight disease.
The many benefits of exercise include:
• Increased range of movement and joint mobility
• Improved pain management
• Increased muscle strength
• Stronger bones – which can help protect against osteoporosis
• Weight control
• Improved balance and co-ordination
• Reduced stress
• Improved sleep patterns
• Increased energy levels
• Better breathing
• Improved self-esteem
Beginning an exercise Routine:
Many people with arthritis feel they have good reasons for avoiding exercise, whether it’s pain, stiffness, or a fear of harming their joints. But the reality is that lack of exercise can make these things worse; if muscles are not used they can lose strength, and joints can become painful, stiff and unstable. It is important to find the right type of exercise, and to do it at a time that suits you.
Building an exercise routine into your daily life may take a bit of getting used to at first, but after a while, it can become second nature. Making the decision to begin exercising on a regular basis is vital, but so is understanding your arthritis and how it might affect you while you are exercising.
During the first couple of weeks of a new routine, expect to feel a small increase in discomfort because your muscles are probably being worked in a way that is unfamiliar. It is usual to experience stiffness when doing new exercises and not necessarily a negative thing. Even with regular and familiar exercise, it is normal to feel the effects of the exercise afterwards, especially in your muscles.
There are, however, a few things to watch out for that may be signs you are overdoing it. These can include experiencing pain two hours after exercising, or if you experience persistent fatigue, any decrease in your range of movement, or increased joint swelling. Do not let this put you off! You may find that a small adjustment to your routine is all that’s needed, for example, simply doing fewer repetitions of a particular exercise, or building up the routine more gradually.
However, if at any time an exercise gives you a sharp pain, especially in the joint itself, stop doing it immediately and, before trying that particular exercise again, seek advice from a doctor or physiotherapist.
At Wimbledon physiotherapy we are happy to advise you on the correct exercises that are beneficial for your type of arthritis. We can also guide you on the amount of exercise and progression of these exercises.