If you’re living with arthritis, you know there are good days and bad days. But you can expect most mornings to feel about the same: lots of stiffness in your arthritic joints until you get moving.
In case you didn’t catch that, the key phrase is “until you get moving.” Just getting up and walking to the kitchen, getting dressed, and preparing for your day loosens up your joints and makes them more mobile. And if simply walking around the house helps, imagine what purposeful exercise could do.
At The Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre, we understand that when you’re in pain, especially if you’re experiencing an arthritis flare-up, you may want to stay in bed and keep movement to a minimum. But if you can push past some initial discomfort, certain exercises can be more powerful than some medications.
Our experts help our patients who suffer from arthritis discover the pain-relieving power of movement. The increased circulation and added lubrication may reduce or even prevent your arthritis flare-ups and may help you avoid joint replacement surgery. Here’s what you need to know about the link between arthritis and exercise.
The arthritis-exercise connection
Every human body needs exercise to keep muscles, bones, and organs strong and healthy. When you have arthritis, it’s even more important to stay active. Here are some of the key ways exercise improves your arthritis symptoms:
- Releases endorphins, your body’s natural pain-relief chemicals
- Gives you the strength and flexibility to perform everyday tasks without putting too much pressure on your joints
- Increases your blood flow and therefore the vital nutrients available for bones and cartilage
- Helps you manage your weight, which eases pressure on your joints
- Boosts your immune system and helps you ward off other medical issues
We recommend our arthritis patients shoot for 150 minutes of moderate-level activities every week.
Choosing helpful exercises for arthritis
Whether walking is your only workout or you mix in high-level activities like biking or swimming, it’s best to split your activity up over multiple days. That way, you can rest between sessions so you don't overexert yourself. The following types of exercises are best for relieving arthritis pain.
Exercises that increase your range of motion
Stretching is vital for arthritis patients, even if it may not feel like exercising. Arthritis pain, especially during a flare-up, can make you keep your joint immobile or barely moving, even if you don’t realize it. However, holding it that way for long only limits the motion of that joint even more.
Range-of-motion exercises involve straightening and bending your joints in a slow, controlled manner, stopping when you complete a normal range of motion. We can help you figure out your limits and learn how far you need to stretch to keep your joints flexible.
Exercises that increase strength
Many people give up on weightlifting when they get arthritis because they mistakenly think it will worsen their condition. In reality, weightlifting done right is one of the best ways to manage your arthritis pain. That's because the stronger your muscles are, the more they can do to protect your painful joints.
We realize that there are days when the pain is just too much, and lifting weights could exacerbate your flare-up. On these days, switch to isometrics. Isometric exercises aren’t focused on full joint movement but rather muscle flexing and movement. You should have an easier time completing them, especially during a flare-up.
Exercises that help your overall health
Low-impact aerobic exercises are the backbone of those recommended 150 minutes of moderate-level activities. And there are many ways to get your heart pumping without harming your joints, like swimming, cycling, dancing, and even playing with your kids or grandkids.
If you have a gym membership, spend some time on the stair climber or an elliptical machine. Better yet, exercise with friends and family or listen to an audiobook during your session to make the time fly and keep things interesting.
To learn more about how exercise can improve your arthritis, contact us at our office in The Woodlands, Texas. Call to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists today, or book one online.