When we are living with arthritis, pain and stiffness may cause us to avoid exercise. When it hurts to move, our instinct may be to stop moving. However, it turns out that’s the opposite of what we want to do. Exercise is one of the most vital things we can do to improve our quality of life. Movement can help us boost strength and flexibility and reduce joint pain. But often, getting started is the most challenging step. Fortunately, your orthopedic team can help.
What Is Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis (wear-and-tear arthritis) happens when the cartilage that cushions your joints gets worn down. Cartilage loss prevents the bones of your joints from gliding smoothly and causes pain and stiffness. Arthritis affects the knees, hips, lower back, and other joints.
Is It Best To Keep Moving or Rest With Arthritis?
While our tendency may be to slow down because of arthritis pain, we want to do the opposite. Stopping activity often makes arthritis worse, while exercise makes us feel better once we make it a habit. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, some of the reasons exercise helps with arthritis include:
- Exercise increases blood flow to cartilage and helps it stay healthy.
- Specific exercises will strengthen the muscles around your joints. When you build muscle, the bones in your joints carry less weight. This helps protect damaged cartilage.
- Exercise can help with weight loss which reduces the stress on weight-bearing joints.
- Exercise can help break the cycle of depression and pain. When physical activity makes us feel better, it can help us manage pain.
- Exercise helps us sleep better, which can help us manage pain and motivate us to move more frequently.
Which Exercises Can Help With Arthritis?
When we work to manage arthritis pain, we focus on three types of movement:
- Range of motion exercises boost flexibility.
- Strength training builds muscle mass and protects the joints.
- Aerobic exercise helps with overall health and weight loss.
Some of the best exercises for arthritis include swimming, water aerobics, cycling, walking, and using an elliptical trainer. Gentle yoga and tai chi can improve balance and help ease joint pain. One of our primary goals is to build up to a moderate-impact exercise program slowly and gradually, especially for folks who have not been active. Low-impact aerobic activity with two or three days a week of strength training plus stretching and range of motion activities is ideal.
What Exercises Should I Avoid with Arthritis?
If you are used to doing high-impact exercise, your orthopaedist may recommend a switch to a low-impact exercise routine. High-impact activities include running, high-impact aerobics classes, some team sports, and more intense and fast-paced types of yoga.
How Can I Start Exercising When My Joints Hurt?
Are you planning to start an exercise program after being sedentary? Is joint pain from arthritis keeping you away from physical activity? Talk with your orthopaedist. In many cases, starting with physical therapy can help you build up to an exercise routine. A professionally supervised PT program featuring strength, balance, and range of motion exercises is an ideal way to launch your own exercise routine. Plus, you learn proper techniques that help you see benefits. Professional PT can also include pain management techniques like ultrasound, electrotherapy, and heat/cold therapy to help you ease back into exercise. At Countryside Orthopaedics & Physical Therapy,, our providers have decades of experience helping patients manage arthritis and get back to activities they love. Exercise is a proven strategy for managing arthritis, but it can be tough to get the ball rolling. Don’t let arthritis keep you on the sidelines. With support from our top-notch team of physical therapists, we’ll help you get moving again.