Arthritis may make you want to sit still, but you shouldn’t
If you’re in the grip of arthritis pain—and about 46 million American adults are—we have two words for you: Get moving.
Whether you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or worn-down joints, pain can make life’s pleasures unbearable. Where once you looked forward to gardening, a raucous racquetball match or playing catch with your grandkids, now you can’t wait to slather on pain cream and curl up on the sofa with the heating pad. Even simple daily activities like carrying laundry downstairs, bringing in groceries and walking to the mailbox can seem nearly impossible.
Here’s what you might not know: Though it might seem a workout will aggravate your aching joints, the right exercises performed properly actually can be a long-lasting way to tame ankle, hip, knee and shoulder pain. In fact, exercise can improve mobility, muscle strength and overall physical conditioning, plus help you maintain a healthy weight. Here’s how:
• Exercise relieves stiffness. When you don’t move your body, the muscles, tendons and ligaments shorten and tense up. But exercise and stretching afterward can help reduce lack-of-movement stiffness and preserve your range of motion.
• Exercise lubricates the joints. Synovial fluid helps bring oxygen and nutrients into your joints. Exercise, which boosts synovial fluid production, helps keep you well-oiled.
• Exercise increases strength and flexibility. Movement that strengthens muscles and connective tissue surrounding the joints helps relieve pressure on those joints.
• Exercise boosts natural pain-killing compounds. If you’re sedentary, you are more likely to be sensitive to every ache and twinge. When you work out, you gain a measure of natural pain relief.
• Exercise helps keep weight under control. This can help relieve pressure in weight-bearing joints, such as your hips, knees and ankles
• Exercise enhances mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. When you feel happier, you feel better.
Don’t sit on the sidelines in pain. Talk to your doctor about an exercise treatment plan that incorporates range-of-motion, strengthening, aerobic and endurance exercises.