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Why Does Exercise Help Arthritis

Benefits Of Exercise For Osteoarthritis

Exercise & Arthritis – Does Exercise HELP or HARM Arthritis?

Get exercise tips for arthritis and learn why physical activity is the best, non-drug treatment for improving pain and function in OA.

While you may worry that exercising with osteoarthritis could harm your joints and cause more pain, research shows that people can and should exercise when they have osteoarthritis. In fact, exercise is considered the most effective, non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in patients with osteoarthritis.

What Exercises Work Best for Osteoarthritis?Each of the following types of exercises plays a role in maintaining and improving the ability to move and function. Walking and aquatic exercises are particularly good for most people with osteoarthritis.

Exercises for Osteoarthritis

Range of motion or flexibility exercises

Range of motion refers to the ability to move your joints through the full motion they were designed to achieve. These exercises include gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full span. Doing these exercises regularly can help maintain and improve the flexibility in the joints.

Aerobic/endurance exercise

These exercises strengthen the heart and make the lungs more efficient. Aerobic exercise also reduces fatigue and builds stamina, while helping control weight by increasing the number of calories the body uses. Examples of this type of exercise includes walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming or using the elliptical machine.

Strengthening exercises


Aquatic exercises

What Exercises Are Good For Hand Arthritis

People who live with arthritis know the pain, stiffness, and weakness that come with the joint disorder. Arthritic hands can be especially debilitating since humans are almost constantly doing something with their hands.

Certain exercises may help to reduce the pain of arthritis while also working to strengthen the hands. Here are some easy exercises to relieve arthritic pain that you can do almost anywhere.

Anything Is Better Than Nothing

Sometimes exercise can feel like an all-or-nothing mentality: If I cant do an hour at the gym, why bother at all? That kind of thinking is particularly toxic for people with arthritis, because more often than not, a long or intense workout session isnt appropriate. Really, any amount of activity you get beyond resting offers improvements, says Galardi. Maybe you can only tolerate five minutes at a time and then need to stop or rest. Doing that a few times throughout the day can add up.

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Benefits Of Exercise In Ra

Apart from the general effects of exercise previously mentioned in the general population, exercise has been shown to have specific health benefits in people with RA. In fact, as evident from past research, including findings from randomised controlled trials , exercise is considered to be fundamentally beneficial for RA patients. The reported benefits of properly designed physical exercise programs include improved cardiorespiratory fitness and cardiovascular health, increased muscle mass, reduced adiposity , improved strength, and physical functioning, all achieved without exacerbation of disease activity or joint damage. Furthermore, when comparing the effectiveness of high and low intensity exercise training in stable RA, it is found that the former was more effective in increasing aerobic capacity, muscle strength, joint mobility, and physical function with no detrimental effect on disease activity in patients with controlled and active RA .

Common Knee Arthritis Symptoms

Knee Exercises for Arthritic knees

In other words, what does arthritis in the knee feel like?

The signs of knee arthritis can vary significantly. With mild arthritis, many people will have an ache associated with walking, stairs, or running. The location of the ache or pain can be on the inner side of your knee, the outer side, or even in the back of the knee.

Osteoarthritis in some people will produce swelling, or what is commonly referred to as water on the knee. Therefore some of you may have swelling of the knee while others will not. Depending on the location of arthritis within your knee, it can feel like it wants to give way.

Some people with knee arthritis will have the feeling that the knee is unstable, or that the knee will not support them. Some people with that feeling will notice an improvement if they use a compression knee sleeve. Simple compression sleeves might work well. Sometimes you need a knee arthritis brace with more support.

A feeling of griding or crepitus is a common complaint. When the inflammation due to knee arthritis increases, you may have knee pain at night. Thats why you may reach for a pillow to put between your knees when you sleep. Morning stiffness of the knee, or stiffness if you have been sitting for a while is a common complaint if you have inflammation associated with knee joint cartilage degeneration.

So, the most common symptoms of knee arthritis are:

  • swelling

Also Check: What Makes Rheumatoid Arthritis Worse

Risk Of Oa From Sports Participation

Recent years have witnessed an enormous increase in the popularity of recreational exercise. There is a plethora of evidence supporting participation in regular exercise, including recreational activities or competitive sports, as it improves general health and may increase longevity. Individuals with normal joints frequently ask whether their exercise programs increase the risk of developing OA.

The initial studies that evaluated the relationship between regular recreational weight-bearing exercise and OA of the knee generally found no ill effects on the joints from exercise participation . More recent studies that assessed the longitudinal effects of aging and exercise on OA of the hip and knee after 5 and 8 years of follow-up also found no increased risk of developing OA in runners, compared with age-similar controls . What is clear from the data is that the risk of subsequent OA relates more to the intensity of the level of participation, the performance level and the concomitant presence and or likelihood of joint injury. In this light we have considered recreational vs. elite separately, paying particular attention to the presence or consideration of joint injury.

Thus elite athletes who perform their activities with high impact and high stress to the joints appear to have an increased risk for OA in the hips and knees compared with age-matched controls . Again the concomitant presence or likelihood of joint injury increases the risk of developing OA.

What If My Pain Worsens After Exercise

When you start any new physical activity, aches and stiffness are normal. It can take time for your joints to adjust to your new exercise routine, so its important to stick to it and give your body time to acclimate.

Warming up and cooling down before and after you exercise can help ease sore muscles and prevent injury. You should also modify your activity as your body adjusts. If your pain doesnt improve, exercise for less time or for fewer days each week until it does.

Furthermore, try different activities. If cycling is too painful, for example, try swimming.

Be sure to call Dr. Dupay if your pain doesnt improve, is sharp or stabbing, or gets worse at night. You should also call him if you experience a dramatic increase in swelling or your joints feel warm or appear red.

Also Check: What Is Cirrhotic Arthritis

What Are The Causes Of Osteoarthritis Of The Knee

What is arthritis in the knee? Lets start at a very basic level. There are many potential causes of osteoarthritis of the knee. In people without prior injuries osteoarthritis is usually a biologically mediated inflammatory process. what does that mean?!? In our joints, we have 100s of proteins, cytokines, chemicals, and other compounds which are made by the synovium, or the lining of the knee joint. When our joints are healthy, the chemicals in our joint support cartilage health and nutrition.

Whether it is due to injury, or our metabolism, weight, and diet a switch flips. Changes occur in our knee joint that is similar to the changes associated with other chronic disease states. That switch turns on genes in our DNA that increase the production chemicals that are hostile to the health of our cartilage. So over time, an increase in those unfriendly chemicals eventually causes cartilage cell injury. The cartilage is the cushioning in the knee that protects the knee from developing knee arthritis. That weakens the cartilage and its ability to withstand stress.

If the cartilage is not functioning well, or if it becomes thinner, it can lead to pain, inflammation, warmth, and swelling. Osteoarthritis appears to be caused by low-grade chronic inflammation. This is the same chronic inflammation held as a cause of other chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver.

Ask A Physical Therapist

Arthritis Advice: Knee Exercises

If your doctor offers physical therapy as a treatment option, take it. It cant be stressed enough how much better it is to work with a professional on proper exercise form rather than just doing it yourself with a sheet of exercises, Calabrese says.

A good physical therapist can design an exercise program thats appropriate for you and increase the intensity over time. As a bonus, physical therapists are great at encouraging you and helping you establish helpful habits.

Also Check: Arthritis Flare Up In Wrist

What Exercise Can Do For Your Arthritis

With exercise, you strengthen muscles, reduce stiffness, improve flexibility, and boost your mood and self-esteem.

If you have arthritis, exercise can help control aches and pains and even improve other symptoms. Try to stick to a regular fitness plan. Doing so can help you feel better.

With osteoarthritis, the cartilage that cushions the joints starts to wear down. This causes pain and stiffness in locations like the knees, hips, feet, shoulders, elbows, hands, low back, and neck.

“A decade or two ago, when people had an arthritis flare-up, we treated them with aspirin and told them not to get out of bed until it got better. Now we know it’s much better for people to remain as active as they can,â says Kim Huffman, MD, PhD, an expert in muscles, activity, and arthritis at the Duke University Medical Center.

How does it help? You can look for these six benefits:

  • Less pain and swelling. “When you exercise, you release feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which are like natural pain relievers,” says A. Lynn Millar, PhD, chair of the department of physical therapy at Winston-Salem State University.
  • Easier movement. “As people become stronger and more flexible, they’re better able to do things like get up the stairs, walk around the grocery store, and function normally,” Millar says.
  • Help with your weight. “Being overweight is hard on your joints,” Millar says. Regular exercise is part of reaching and keeping your weight in a healthy range.
  • What Type Of Exercises Can Benefit My Arthritis

    Research has shown that regular moderate activity helps prevent the progression of arthritis and improves overall fitness. Fear of pain may cause you to avoid exercise, but its important to remember that such inactivity will likely lead to further arthritic pain. People with arthritis should aim to exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Short sessions of exercise throughout the day provide great health benefits, so consider three 10-minute exercises throughout the day if a half-hour workout seems daunting. Recommended exercises for arthritis include:

    • Stretching
    • Water Aerobics
    • Range-of-motion exercises

    Since joint health is a use it or lose it proposition, joint exercises should be part of your regular exercise routine. Common exercises that build range-of-motion include gently straightening and bending the joints with simple stretches. Try these stretches with careful control and proceed only as far as is comfortable. Joints should be stretched gently until normal or near-normal range-of-motion is attained. Range-of-motion exercises not only benefit your joints, they act as important warm-ups for more rigorous strength training and aerobic exercises.

    Also Check: Mayo Clinic On Arthritis

    Exercise Helps Ease Arthritis Pain And Stiffness

    Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 1, 2020.

    Exercise is crucial for people with arthritis. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue. Of course, when stiff and painful joints are already bogging you down, the thought of walking around the block or swimming a few laps might seem overwhelming.

    But you don’t need to run a marathon or swim as fast as an Olympic competitor to help reduce arthritis symptoms. Even moderate exercise can ease your pain and help you maintain a healthy weight. When arthritis threatens to immobilize you, exercise keeps you moving. Not convinced? Read on.

    Musculoskeletal Health And Exercise

    Exercises for Arthritis in Lower Back

    2.2.1. Rheumatoid Cachexia and Skeletal Muscle Function

    A summary of the influence of skeletal muscle properties on the factors affecting functional limitation, disability and loss of independence in RA. Note: not all of the skeletal muscle properties have been routinely demonstrated with RA . BMD: bone mineral density, CVD: cardiovascular disease, ROM: range of motion. *Factors that are adversely affected by medications.

    The impaired physical function that is characteristic of RA is strongly correlated with the diminished muscle mass , but to date there is no standard treatment for rheumatoid cachexia.

    As high-intensity PRT performed by RA patients, with both newly diagnosed and long-standing disease, has proved to be efficacious in increasing muscle mass, strength, and improving physical function, whilst being well tolerated and safe, it is advocated that such programs are included in disease management to counteract the effects rheumatoid cachexia . PRT can also benefit other health aspects, for example, improving coordination and balance which RA can detrimentally affect. It is also important to maintain normal muscle strength in order to stabilise the knee joint, preventing joint angulation, and later osteoarthritis . Further health benefits are detailed below.

    Summary of Rheumatoid Cachexia and Musculoskeletal Health and Exercise Types for Treatment â

    2.2.2. Bone Mineral Density

    Summary of Exercise Types for Bone Health â

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    Perceptions Of Ra Patients Regarding Exercise

    Whilst there are numerous reasons why exercise is considered to be of fundamental benefit, it is apparent that the RA population is less physically active than the general population. Therefore, it is important for those involved in the care of RA patients to be aware of factors that may positively and negatively affect the uptake of and compliance to an exercise prescription.

    The perceptions of people with RA may provide reasoning for the lower physical activity levels of RA patients when compared to the general population . Thus, understanding the perceptions of RA patients regarding exercise is salient to the role of the health professional .

    A further issue relating to the health professional is their own assertion and certainty when prescribing exercise to those with RA. In the study by Iversen et al. , only 51% of rheumatologists reported they felt confident that they knew when exercises were appropriate for their patients with RA. Correspondingly, recent research has revealed that patients perceive uncertainties within the health profession regarding the impact of exercise on pain and joint health. In particular, this was in relation to whether the sensation of exercise discomfort or pain equated to actual joint damage and the effects of different types of exercise on the health of their joints . These concerns pose a further challenge to RA patients .

    Should I Avoid Certain Types Of Exercise If I Have Arthritis

    For arthritis that affects the joints, running, jogging, jumping rope, high impact aerobics or any other exercise where both feet are off the ground at the same time are to be avoided.

    Hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga, is a new exercise trend. People with arthritis should check with their personal physician before embarking on this type of yoga. Because heat can cause swelling, people with arthritis might want to avoid hot yoga.

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    How Exercise Helps Arthritis Pain

    Arthritis pain naturally causes most adults to slow down and limit activity. Not exercising, however, can result in more problems. Recent research shows that over time inactivity actually worsens osteoarthritis pain, and puts adults at greater risk for eventual total loss of mobility.

    Because exercise is painful for so many adults with arthritis, it may be hard to understand how exercise helps to relieve pain. Here’s how it helps:

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    Ways To Work Out With Arthritis

    Does exercise help or hurt my arthritis?

    Get help finding your preferred joint-friendly exercise for arthritis to help get you moving, relieve pain and make joints more flexible.

    When your joints hurt, youre probably not eager to exercise even though youve heard time and time again that you should. Not only does exercise keep joints strong and flexible, it also promises pain relief for a host of conditions, including osteoarthritis , rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. It also keeps pain from starting, helps you shed pounds and reduces stress.

    If you havent felt inspired to start an exercise routine, you may not have found the activity that suits you. We went to experts for the low-down on low-impact, joint-friendly and, dare we say it, fun ways to shape up. Whether youre an exercise newbie, or just want to spice up your fitness menu, youre sure to find an activity that gets you excited to move.

    1. Water Walking

    Why Its Good:Do It Safely:Cautions :

    2. Water Aerobics

    Why Its Good: Do It Safely:

    3. Swimming

    Why Its Good:Do It Safely:

    4. Bocce Ball

    Why Its Good:Do It Safely:Cautions:

    5. Golf

    Why Its Good:Do It Safely: Cautions:

    6. Shuffleboard

    Why Its Good:Do It Safely:Cautions:

    7. Treadmill Walking

    Why Its Good:Do It Safely: Cautions:

    8. Walking Outdoors

    Why Its Good:Do It SafelyCautions:

    9. Cycling

    Why Its Good: Do It Safely:Cautions:

    10. Cross-Country Skiing

    Why Its Good:Do It Safely:Cautions:

    11. Elliptical Machine

    Why Its Good:Do It Safely:Cautions:

    12. Pliates

    Why Its Good:

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    What Other Types Of Knee Exercises Work Best

    Walking is an excellent form of exercise. Its low-impact, and because its a weight-bearing exercise, it helps strengthen muscles and build bone. Wear good, sturdy shoes. Start out slow, and gradually increase your pace and distance for best results.

    Water exercises or walking in the shallow end of a pool are also great for muscle strength and knee flexibility. Because the body is buoyant in water, it lessens impact to near zero as it makes you work a little harder to move.

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