Some helpful tips for dealing with arthritis

  • Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013 1:15 a.m.
    UPDATED: Monday, January 14, 2013 6:04 a.m.

Do you have arthritis and wonder which exercises help instead of aggravate it?

Arthritis is an inflammation of one or more joints which results in swelling, stiffness and limited movement. There are many different types of arthritis and make sure you have your doctor diagnose which type you have. Arthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage. It is common in the normal aging process and/or can occur due to wear and tear of the cartilage from injuries or over use. Cartilage normally protects the joint allowing for smooth movements. It also works as a shock absorber for example when you are walking or running. Without the usual amount of cartilage, the bones “rub” together causing pain, swelling (inflammation) and stiffness. Arthritis can occur in men and women of all ages. About 37 million people in America have arthritis of some kind (which that is almost 1 out of every 7 people).

Exercise for arthritis is necessary to maintain healthy joints, relieve stiffness, reduce pain and fatigue, and improve muscle and bone strength. Your exercise program should be tailored to you as an individual. If you are ready to start now, you can start with low impact exercising, like walking and bicycling. Swimming is wonderful exercise for anyone but especially for people with arthritis. The water gives your body buoyancy which reduces stress on the hips, knees and spine. A stretch program will help you improve your range of motion and will assist you in your ability to perform daily activities more comfortably. With the help of a knowledgeable trainer, you could start a light strength program to enhance your muscle tone.

Rest is just as important as exercise. Sleeping 8-10 hours per night and taking naps during the day can help you recover from flare-ups more quickly. Also avoid holding one position for too long, positions and movements that place extra stress on your affected joints. Reduce stress. Stress can aggravate your symptoms. Yoga stretch, Tai Chi, Gentle Yoga, Stretch ‘n Tone, BODYFLOW and Estelatte or any of our water exercise classes are excellent choices to help you with that, just make sure your instructors know about your health challenges.

I always tell people that you need to start to really listen to your body. Muscle pain and/or burning feel a lot different than joint pain. By slowly increasing your range of motion in your arthritic joint(s), strengthening the muscles and tendons and improving your circulation, you will feel better and will be able to handle arthritis issues a lot better.

Ester H Marsh, ACSM Cpt Health and Fitness Director JF Hurley Family YMCA

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