Jul 3, 2017
Low Impact Exercise For Arthritis Sufferers
Activities To Improve Joint Mobility And Alleviate Pain
Swelling, chronic pain, and tenderness can make it really difficult to find the motivation to get moving; but did you know you can reduce painful signs of inflammation with physical activity? Gentle exercise is the easiest way to relieve arthritic pain and support optimal joint mobility and muscular strength. Patients with arthritis often feel limited in terms of their joint mobility; and daily tasks, which were once a walk in the park, can become daunting and extremely painful to accomplish.
Be mindful not to push yourself beyond your limits. The safest exercise interventions, such as aerobic and muscle strengthening techniques, will be the most effective in regaining function loss in people with chronic arthritis.1
Here are some ways in which you can safely exercise to minimise any stress inflicted on your joints.
“For patients who find land based exercise difficult, aquatic programs can offer an enabling alternative strategy, reducing the impact on the joints.”
Water aerobics and other gentle aquatic sports allow for buoyancy unlike any other form of physical activity to achieve greater ease of movement for degenerative arthritis sufferers. For patients who find land based exercise difficult, aquatic programs can offer an enabling alternative strategy, reducing the impact on the joints.2
If your mobility is limited, consider heated pool or spa hydrotherapy. Stretch out, and repeatedly lift your knees to improve flection and engage your core in the warm water. If water exercises are new to you or you are struggling to find the motivation, try joining a water aerobics, water polo or swimming class to ensure precision of form.
Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi And Feldenkrais
“All four practices support the body and mitigate joint stiffness and pain by creating space between the joints and increasing flexibility.”
People with arthritis can specifically benefit from adopting therapeutic yoga, pilates, tai chi and feldenkrais into their daily routine. All four practices support the body and mitigate joint stiffness and pain by creating space between the joints and increasing flexibility. You’ll help to correct your patterns of movement and balance with gentle repetition by listening to your body to promote optimal alignment. Yoga, pilates, tai chi and feldenkrais are particularly favourable alternatives, as they also address posture, breathing and relaxation, which all help to manage symptoms of arthritis and improve quality of life.3
Consider implementing a gentle at-home vinyasa-style (continuous fluid movement) routine to your day; or, if you’re new to these practices or unfamiliar with any of the poses, join a few beginners classes to get your started. Look out for an instructor who will understand your specific needs, as some poses can be detrimental to your condition.
Golf And Lawn Bowls
"It’s important to pay attention to your technique and ensure a comfortable range-of-motion when bowling or taking a swing.”
Reduce weight, improve function and embed self-management strategies with low impact, highly social physical activities such as golfing and lawn bowling. High intensity exercise can contribute to wear and tear. However, such lighter intensity activities can reduce the functional decline and pain associated with arthritis diseases.4
It’s important to pay attention to your technique and ensure a comfortable range-of-motion when bowling or taking a swing. Nonetheless, if done correctly, these sports can offer effective relief from joint and muscle pain. Warm up before playing and adapt your equipment. It’s a good idea to opt for lightweight clubs and bowls to avoid placing any stress on the body. Remember to find the right balance between rest and exercise.
Cycling And Walking
“You can participate in therapeutic walking and cycling at any age, and you’ll be helping to shift the pressure off those joints and circulate fluid throughout the body.”
Exercise prescriptions are the best medicine; so take the pressure off the sore spots and consider implementing simple recreational activities such as indoor or outdoor cycling and walking. These gentle approaches are inexpensive, safe, easy to adopt, and highly effective in motivating yourself due to the social nature of the activity. You can participate in therapeutic walking and cycling at any age, and you’ll be helping to shift the pressure off those joints and circulate fluid throughout the body.
Both indoor and outdoor cycling are low impact, using the largest muscle groups of the lower extremities — perfect for accommodating the needs of almost any arthritic problem.5 Studies show cycling has good outcomes for factors such as disease activity, muscle strength and exercise tolerance.
Walking has also shown to see improvements in arthritis pain, and can be seen as a safe form of aerobics, even for those participants with arthritis affecting weight-bearing joints.5 Injury prevalence for walking is significantly low, and can be further safeguarded by taking short, controlled strides. It’s important not to push yourself too hard and to listen to your body before engaging in high impact running.
“These rehabilitation techniques will be the best way to provide adequate muscle tone without exacerbating the disease’s progression.”
Whether you’ve just undergone a hip or knee procedure or are simply managing the pain and progression of your disease, physiotherapy treatment is integral to symptom and degeneration management of arthritis. Physiotherapists educate patients in joint protection strategies as well as the use of assistive devices, helping patients with painful arthritis go about their therapeutic exercises.6
The approach to physical activity your physiotherapist or occupational therapist may recommend will depend on your individual circumstances; however, such exercise components may include stretching, strengthening and aerobic conditioning exercises. These rehabilitation techniques will be the best way to provide adequate muscle tone without exacerbating the disease’s progression.7
There’s More To Gain Than To Lose
Should you have any concerns about safely incorporating an exercise routine or sporting activity into your day, you should consult with your orthopaedic surgeon or physiotherapist about which movements to limit or avoid. In any case, the importance of low impact physical activity for maintaining bone density and preserving joint structure cannot be emphasised enough.
Remember to avoid further degradation of the joints or ligaments which can be associated with high impact exercise, and choose an activity that’s right for you and your body.
Dr Jason Tsung does not endorse any treatments, procedures or activities referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon.
Callahan, L.F., 2009. Physical activity programs for chronic arthritis. Current opinion in rheumatology, 21(2), pp. 177-182.
Batterham, S.I., Heywood, S. and Keating, J.L., 2011. Systematic review and meta-analysis comparing land and aquatic exercise for people with hip or knee arthritis on function, mobility and other health outcomes. BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 12(1), p. 123.
Ward, L., Treharne, G.J. and Stebbings, S., 2011. The suitability of yoga as a potential therapeutic intervention for rheumatoid arthritis: a focus group approach. Musculoskeletal care, 9(4), pp. 211-221.
Lineker, S.C., 1999. People with Arthritis can Exercise Safely. The Arthritis Community Research and Evaluation Unit (ACREU).
Deanna Westby, M., 2001. A health professional's guide to exercise prescription for people with arthritis: a review of aerobic fitness activities. Arthritis care & research, 45(6), pp. 501-511.
Kavuncu, V. and Evcik, D., 2004. Physiotherapy in rheumatoid arthritis. Medscape General Medicine, 6(2).
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