Exercise for Osteoarthritis!
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, and occurs when the cartilage at the end of the bones in a joint breaks down. This can cause pain, weakness, stiffness and swelling in the joints affected.
Many people worry about exercising with Osteoarthritis, in case it makes the pain and condition worse. However, research actually shows that it is beneficial to exercise when you have Osteoarthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, exercise is considered as the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving range of movement in people with Osteoarthritis.
What exercise is best?
Low impact aerobic exercise is good for Osteoarthritis. Such exercises include walking, cycling, swimming and the elliptical machine (cross trainer). These activities can help to maintain and improve muscle strength, which can help to protect and support the joints affected by the arthritis. Aerobic activity also helps to strengthen the heart and improve efficiency of the lungs, which helps stamina and may reduce fatigue. This type of exercise burns calories too, which can help to maintain a healthy body weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is important, as being overweight can place excess strain on the joints and worsen the symptoms of Osteoarthritis.
For people who are overweight or are just beginning to exercise, swimming or aquatic exercises standing in water can be a great place to start. The water supports the body and therefore takes any strain off of the joints, whilst allowing you to exercise and strengthen against the resistance of the water. Hydrotherapy exercises have been shown to help reduce pain and improve function in people with hip and knee arthritis. The warm water can also help to sooth aching and reduce joint stiffness.
Range of movement and stretching exercises can also help to maintain and improve flexibility in the joints affected by arthritis, as well as reduce stiffness. Furthermore, specific strengthening exercises can be performed daily at home to target specific muscles around the affected joint. The appropriate exercises will vary according to the individual, and can be prescribed and tailored by a Physiotherapist.
How much exercise is good?
The government recommendation for aerobic exercise is 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, or 30 minutes 5 x per week. However, the appropriate amount of exercise will vary according to individual circumstances. A health professional, such as your Physiotherapist, can discuss and create a tailored plan that is appropriate for you.
Here at Choice Physio we treat lots of patients with Osteoarthritis, and can discuss your requirements and preferences to create a personalised exercise plan for you. We can also provide hands on therapy, such as acupuncture and massage, to help reduce pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints.