People with arthritis often worry that exercise will make the pain worse or even accelerate the tissue degeneration responsible for their arthritis. But the opposite is true.
Our team at ROC in Oregon City and Tualatin, Oregon, understands your concern but wants you to know that lack of activity increases your pain, stiffens the joint, weakens the muscles, and limits range of motion. And if you stop exercising regularly, these unwanted changes occur quickly.
Exercise is one of the most effective treatments for arthritis, and you gain dramatic benefits in return for a small investment of time. You can ease arthritis pain with as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.
How exercise relieves arthritis pain
Exercise is essential in managing your arthritis pain. It boosts your energy and stamina, which is invaluable considering chronic inflammatory diseases like arthritis do nothing but drain your energy.
Getting regular exercise also strengthens your immune system, promoting better overall health and helping fight chronic inflammation. Even better, moderate exercise is best for your immune system, and that’s exactly what you need for arthritis.
Exercise causes several changes in your arthritic joint that ease pain, including:
Strengthening the muscles supporting your joint
Your joint holds up better when it has optimal support from surrounding muscles and ligaments. Strong muscles take pressure off of the joint, slowing down tissue damage and degeneration.
Exercise increases circulation, which brings healing oxygen and nutrients into the joint while removing metabolic wastes and other substances that cause pain.
Reducing inflammation and swelling
It only takes about 20 minutes of exercise to reduce inflammation and swelling. Improving circulation alone may bring down swelling, but it turns out that exercise also triggers a cellular response that lowers levels of inflammation-causing cells.
Diminishing stiffness (improving range of motion)
Nothing is more important for improving your range of motion than moving the joint. For this reason, your exercise regimen should include stretching to improve flexibility and movement.
Physical activity also stimulates circulation of synovial fluid. Synovial fluid relieves stiffness and pain by lubricating the joint and improving smooth movement.
Supporting healthy weight
Carrying extra weight substantially adds to your arthritis pain and speeds up joint degeneration. Staying active makes it easier to lose weight, if needed, and to maintain a healthy weight.
Arthritis exercise tips
Your concern about exercise causing more pain can become a reality if you engage in intensive exercise that puts too much pressure on the joint. When you have arthritis, you need to find a balance of moderate exercise and periods of rest so you don’t overdo it and aggravate your joints.
These tips can help you get started:
- Begin slowly and build up gradually
- Choose low-impact activities like walking and swimming
- Pay attention to how your joint tolerates exercise, and rest if needed
- If your joint hurts longer than two hours after exercising, rest the next day
- Modify your activity if you’re fatigued or if you have more stiffness than usual
- Include a mix of stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercises
We can help you plan an exercise regimen that’s safe for your joint and the severity of damage you have. Depending on your level of joint pain and stiffness, we may recommend physical therapy. An experienced physical therapist can design an exercise plan that fits your needs, teach you when to rest, and ensure that you don’t stress the joint.
Don’t wait to get help for stiff, painful joints. Call ROC or request an appointment online today.