When arthritis pain sets in, you may be inclined to cut back on your activity to avoid additional pain. In reality, avoiding exercise can actually make your pain worse and eventually decrease your mobility. Certain activities may be difficult if you are experiencing pain from arthritis, but the right activities can actually help to relieve your pain.
Why You Should Exercise
Exercise helps to improve your overall health and well-being, but it can also be very helpful in managing your arthritis. These are some of the reasons why exercise is helpful:
- It increases blood flow to the cartilage. This is very important because the blood carries the necessary nutrients to the cartilage, helping to keep it healthy.
- It can strengthen the muscles surrounding the arthritic joint. Strong muscles help to support the joint so the bones bear less of the weight. This helps to protect the damaged cartilage in the joint.
- It can help with weight loss. If you are overweight, you could be placing a lot of stress on weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees. Even just a few pounds of weight loss can make a big difference in the stress on your joints.
What to Focus On While Exercising
Before beginning any fitness program, it is a good idea to discuss it with your doctor. Depending on the location of your arthritis, your doctor or physical therapist may suggest specific exercises to help with your arthritis. A well-balanced exercise program is key to managing arthritis pain. Here are some things to keep in mind when beginning an exercise program for your arthritis.
- Improve your range of motion. Exercises focused on improving range of motion will increase flexibility and reduce stiffness in the arthritic joint.
- Strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint. Strengthening exercises are also an important part of a balanced exercise program because strong supporting muscles help to protect the arthritic joint and damaged cartilage.
- Aerobic exercise helps with a number of health and fitness issues. Aerobic exercise is important for your overall health. It helps keep your heart and lungs healthy, and can also help you to manage your weight, which can take some of the stress off your joints.
- If you haven’t exercised in awhile, start off slowly. You don’t want to take on too much too soon, or you could risk further injury. For aerobic activity, aim for 20 to 30 minutes, three to four times a week. If needed, you can break that time up into shorter segments throughout the day until you get stronger. Range of motion exercises can be done every day, and strength training can be done every other day.
- Don’t overdo it. You may feel minor soreness the day after exercise, but the pain should never be so bad that you are unable to move. This is a sign that you have done too much. If certain activities are painful for you, you may want to discuss it with your doctor to find alternatives or ways to modify the activity.
- Low-impact aerobic activities put less stress on your joints. High-impact activities like running can be great for aerobic exercise, but may put too much stress on the joints. In some cases, you may need to switch to low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or cycling.
Resist the urge to avoid activity when you experience arthritis pain. While exercise cannot reverse the damage done by arthritis, it can help to decrease and slow the progression of your symptoms over time.