The Positive Effects Exercise Can Have on Your Osteoarthritis

The Positive Effects Exercise Can Have on Your Osteoarthritis

It hurts to bend your knee or to put weight on it at all. Should you exercise? Could exercise cause more damage to your joint?

The highly skilled and knowledgeable providers at Rheumatology Solutions recommend regular exercise for most patients, especially those with osteoarthritis. In this post we describe some of the positive effects of exercise when you have arthritis. We always encourage you to talk to your doctor about what is safe, what may not be, and where you should start, before beginning an exercise routine.

Why it’s so easy to skip exercise

When you have osteoarthritis, the structures in the affected joints are breaking down, allowing the bones to rub against each other painfully. During that process, you likely experience inflammation, swelling, and pain. Your joint may “lock up” sometimes. Moving it is probably painful.

None of that makes exercise appealing, and you may even wonder if exercise can do more damage to the tissues in your joint. If the arthritis is caused by “wear-and-tear,” it’s reasonable to worry that using it more will cause even more wear-and-tear.

So, you end up with pain, avoiding exercise because it hurts and because you’re worried. Then, all the muscles and tendons and other structures that support your joint become weaker, and that can lead to instability.

The fact is, instead of causing additional damage to your joint, exercise can strengthen the muscles that support it. Exercise can also improve your range of motion, and there’s good evidence that it can reduce your overall pain.

Types of exercise

There are different ways to exercise that offer different benefits. For example, you’re probably familiar with aerobic exercise - activities like jogging, swimming, brisk walking, biking, and other types of exercise that raise your heart rate. You may also find strength training and flexibility training beneficial.

Aerobic exercise improves your endurance, offers great heart health benefits, and helps with pain relief. Depending on which joints are affected by osteoarthritis, you may need to consider low-impact options. Swimming, biking, water aerobics, and using a machine like an elliptical are examples of activities that can raise your heart rate without putting extra pressure on your joints. 

Experts recommend 30 minutes a day, five days each week, of moderate-intensity exercise. If you can’t start with a full 30 minutes, try beginning with five minutes and building up from there. You may also find breaking it into three 10-minute blocks works better for you. 

Strength training, or resistance exercise, is a good way to build up the muscles that support your joints. Exercises you remember from gym class, like pushups and leg raises, are great examples of strength-building exercises. You may want to investigate options at the gym as well. Group fitness classes using weights or weight machines could be good choices. 

Finally, flexibility training like yoga, Pilates, or tai chi can help you improve or maintain your range of motion. Such exercises may also be an effective way to reduce stress. 

Get advice

Again, we encourage you to discuss exercise with your doctor at Rheumatology Solutions. We may suggest physical therapy to get you started or have specific advice about your situation. 

If you’re ready to reap the benefits of exercise, schedule an appointment today, and let us help you decide how to get started.

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