How Exercise Helps Me Manage My Arthritis
A number of years ago I began having pain in my knees and right hip. It came on slowly, but as the weeks and months went by, I could tell it was getting worse. The pain was so bad that I couldn’t walk up or down any stairs and had a hard time getting in and out of the car without immense pain.
At the time, I was in my early fifties so I never really considered that I could have arthritis but sure enough that is what my test results showed. The term arthritis refers to any painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. There are a number of different forms of arthritis, the most common type of arthritis is women is osteoarthritis, which occurs when the cartilage between bones and joints wears down.
I know living with arthritis can be a challenge. The stiffness, pain, and swelling associated with arthritis can severely reduce the range of motion of joints. I suffered daily with it and I know the aches and pains can be overwhelming at times.
When I received my diagnoisis, the doctors told me regular exercise could help (along with other diet and lifestyle changes). They told me physical activity is important for joint health and in the long run, can actually help treat arthritis and the pain that goes along with it.
I often used my pain as a way to get out of exercise, which wasn’t my favorite way to spend my time to begin with. The stiffness, pain, and swelling reduced my range of motion so it made doing any form of exercise painful. So, the pain I was experiencing became my excuse for not doing exercise at all and I was very content with it!
However, I learned that many experts consider movement an essential part of any arthritis treatment plan, even stating that it’s “the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in patients with osteoarthritis.” (Exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness)
At first I did worry that exercising with arthritis could harm your joints and cause more pain, research shows that people can and should exercise when they have arthritis. In fact, exercise is considered the most effective, non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement.
Alright then… but how could I do a squat or spend time on an elliptical when I struggled to get myself out of my chair?
But I was bound and determined to reduce the pain, so I started to put my excuses aside and start with a gentle, low-impact exercise. I started with yoga and swimming, the lowest impact exercise, and the kindest on my joints.
Later, I graduated to other low-impact activities, like walking and even cycling. I also did some strength training because it strengthens the muscles around the joints, lessening the impact on them.
Exercise not can help support the joints by strengthening the muscles around them, it also contributes to weight loss which can cut down inflammation and pain in the joints. Having an active lifestyle can help you relieve stiffness, reduce pain, and increase muscle and bone strength.
Exercises for Arthritis
Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend exercises for you, which might include range-of-motion exercises, strengthening exercises, and even aerobic exercises.
Consider aquatic exercise which is considered ideal because it is less weight-bearing, making your workout gentler on your joints. Also, exercising in warm water can increase blood flow to your joints, which brings the needed nutrients and proteins essential for repairing any damaged tissue.
Try yoga or tai chi which can help you improve balance, prevent falls, improve posture and coordination.
Exercise isn’t just about aerobic conditioning, it’s also vital to work on strength and stretching to support your joints and to maintain your flexibility. Strength training exercises help you build strong muscles that help support and protect your joints.
I now do High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) where a number of the workout routines help improve my balance to prevent falls.
Remember to hit pause if you feel any new or increased joint pain. Pain that lasts for more than a few hours could mean that you have overdone it.
My exercise routine has made a big difference in my pain. Now, I rarely think about my arthritis pain and I’m even enjoying my daily workouts.
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