One in three Americans suffer from a form of arthritis or chronic joint pain. Without treatment or therapies the pain and discomfort can lead to functional loss and disability. However, there are ways to manage the pain. One of these ways that is cost-effective and can be done by everyone are arthritis exercises.
The amount and the form that an arthritis exercise program will take depends on the joints that are involved in the arthritis, the amount of pain and inflammation, the x-ray changes, how stable the joints are and whether or not there has been a joint replacement.
Before starting an arthritis exercise program you must consult your doctor who can help you determine what exercises will be beneficial to your joint health and which may inadvertently cause more damage. A skilled doctor or physical therapist can tailor make a program to fit the needs of the individual.
Studies show that people with chronic joint pain are helped by an arthritis exercise program. The programs appear to reduce the joint pain, stiffness and increase the flexibility, strength and endurance. They also help patients with weight reduction and an improved sense of well being. Weight reduction is important to patients with chronic joint pain and loss of mobility since the more weight the joint must support and cushion the more damage is done to the joint.
Although arthritis exercise is an important piece it is just one part of a comprehensive rehabilitative plan for people with arthritis. The plan also includes rest, relaxation, proper nutrition, medications and use of the joints correctly to conserve energy and decrease functional loss of mobility.
There are three specific types of exercise that are appropriate in an arthritis exercise program. Range of motion exercises are exercise in which the joint is moved through the range it already has to maintain it or move toward more flexibility. Strengthening, such as weight training, will keep or increase muscle strength that supports the joints that are affected. And aerobics or endurance exercises will improve cardiovascular fitness, control weight, and improve overall function. Today most health clubs and community centers offer programs for people with limited mobility.
When you start a program discuss your plans with the doctor; consult a physical therapist or qualified trainer. There are several methods that can help to decrease the initial discomfort of starting an arthritis exercise program. For instance you may apply heat to sore joints or start the exercise with heat applied to the joints to increase circulation and warm the joints. You should stretch and warm up with range of motion exercises. Always start exercises slowly but especially with strength training use low weights and short aerobic exercises.
Exercises should be done at specific intervals. This means that range of motion exercises can be done daily and should be done at least every other day to improve and maintain your range. Strengthening exercises should be done every other day or three times per week to take full advantage of the muscle build up without overtaxing muscles and joints. Endurance exercises can be done for 20 –30 minutes three times a week unless you have severe pain/swelling in your joints.
When you exercise if you experience pain that lasts more than 1 hour it is too strenuous. If you experience persistent fatigue, increased weakness, decreased range of motion, continued pain or increased joint swelling – stop and consult your doctor.
Arthritis exercise programs are an integral part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program for people who suffer from arthritis and chronic joint pain. Using this method will decrease your pain and increase flexibility and mobility.