If you or a loved one has been dealing with arthritis, it helps to remember there are ways to manage the symptoms that come along with this condition. When it comes to soothing painful joints, movement is the best medicine and is integral to keep your joints as mobile and limber as possible. There are few essential things that can help with the pain and prevent this condition from developing even further in the future.
What can you do about your arthritis now?
When it comes to soothing painful joints sometimes the best treatment may be the last thing you want to do — to move. Movement is integral in keeping your joints as mobile and limber as possible. Stop moving, and you’ll see an immediate increase in pain, stiffness, and disability. We know through research that people with arthritis can exercise without worsening their pain, although it is important to increase exercise routines more gradually.
Exercise, as part of a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan, can improve joint mobility, muscle strength, and overall physical conditioning, and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Keep in mind, it is important to work with your physical therapist to figure out which low-impact exercises are best for your particular type of arthritis.
The benefits of walking have been shown to be beneficial to your body for many reasons. For arthritis specifically, a recent study found that walking 6000 steps a day, equivalent to one hour, may help improve knee arthritis and manage overall disability close to 20 percent, with evidence of benefits lasting at least two years.
The study suggests a good starting goal would be to walk at least 3000 steps per day, if using a pedometer, or approximately 30 minutes and progress to ultimately walking at least 6000 steps per day or 60 minutes on an ongoing basis to reduce the risk of developing arthritis.
Tai Chi is an ancient martial arts movement practice originating from China that has grown in popularity involving gentle, flowing movement, meditation, and controlled breathing.
Experts agree that suitable exercise for people with arthritis should incorporate components that can improve muscular strength, flexibility, and fitness. Increased muscular strength supports and protects joints, reducing pain caused by arthritis. Flexibility exercises also help to reduce pain and stiffness, therefore improving mobility. Stamina or fitness is important for overall health and proper function of your muscles. Well, what do you know! Tai Chi helps people with arthritis to improve all of these. In fact, in their 2019 guidelines, the American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation strongly recommended tai chi for people who had arthritis of the hand, hip, and knee.
Hip Movement – Demonstration here
1. In a standing position, bring your hands up slowly(breathe in)
2. Bend your knees as your hands come back down.
3. As your hands come down behind you, push one foot forward.
4. Bring your hands back to your side and bring your foot back to standing position.
5. Bring your hands up in front of you and bring the same foot behind you.
Water Exercise/Hydrotherapy/Aquatic Therapy
Hydrotherapy is uniquely suited to help manage arthritis symptoms. Many studies have found that water therapy for arthritis is an effective way to ease pressure on sore joints, reduce pain & inflammation, increase range of motion, and boost healthy circulation to swollen joints. Water exercise involves exercising in a pool, usually heated, and may also be called ‘hydrotherapy’ or ‘aquatic therapy.’
Warm water exercise is particularly helpful if you have arthritis or another musculoskeletal condition, because your body is supported, and the resistance provided by moving through water builds muscle strength and endurance.
There are several ways you can exercise in water. Here is an example of an easy total body exercise:
Stand in waist- or chest-high water.
1. Hinge your hips and bend your knees, lowering your body into a squat position with your arms reaching forward.
2. Jump up, coming out of the water, drawing your arms to your sides.
3. Land on the balls of your feet and lower your heels, bending your knees and hips into a squat landing.
4. Repeat as quickly as comfortable.
Reduce Your Risk of Arthritis
If you’ve already incorporated some of these exercises into your daily life, you’ve already done half the work to manage your arthritis symptoms. What you do with your body is just as important as what you put into your body. Certain foods can actually help to ease arthritis symptoms and improve your overall joint health.
Following an anti-inflammatory diet can positively impact your joints. It is also just as important to leave out certain foods that have been infamously known to cause high-inflammatory responses, such as red meat, fried foods, and packaged baked goods. To avoid joint pain, make sure you’re not causing pain through your food intake. Cut out processed foods and go for any of the following:
• Fatty Fish – have high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, reducing inflammation.
• Dark Leafy Greens – great sources of Vitamin C & E, helps with collagen production(found in joint cartilage) and inflammatory.
• Nuts – perfect little bite-size anti-inflammatory packages containing Omega-3 fats
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil – great source of heart-healthy fats, contains oleocanthal that has shown to have similar effects to non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs.
• Berries – a powerful anti-inflammatory with high amounts of antioxidants
• Garlic & Onions – contains compounds like quercetin that inhibit inflammation
• Green Tea – this drink contains an ingredient named ECGC shown to halt inflammatory chemicals in the body
Start Making Changes Now – Consult your PT
Need some help starting a routine? A physical therapist can help you identify any weak spots and give you tips to manage future pain. The sooner you start taking steps to address and treat your arthritis, the better your prognosis can be. The goal of physical therapy is to progressively get stronger in order to be able to –not just move more – but to move better.
A program provided by a physical therapist can:
• Minimize arthritis symptoms
• Reduce/prevent deformities
• Increase independence with daily activities
• Educate you about pain-relieving techniques & modifications
• Provide proper stretching and strengthening exercises
Talk to your physical therapist to begin a tailored program that includes a balance of range-of-motion, strengthening, and endurance exercises to relieve the symptoms of arthritis and protect joints from further damage, and help you move towards a pain-free life.