Arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
These conditions refer to the type of damage caused to the cartilage in the joints of the body (most often knee, hip, back and hands). Arthritis refers to a roughening of the cartilage, Osteoarthritis refers to the lack of cartilage so bone rubs on bone, Rheumatoid Arthritis refers to inflammation. Cartilage provides a smooth surface on the end of our bones so they can flex, extend and in some joints rotate with little friction. When cartilage is damaged, worn away or inflamed it causes friction, pain and swelling around the affected joint. The damage to the cartilage in the joints is not reversible and the conditions can be very painful if not managed correctly.
You may think that moving and exercising a joint that is in pain would not be the best idea, however it is very important to remain active in order to reduce the pain that can be caused by the condition long term.
How does exercise help to manage arthritis?
Weight control: Maintaining a healthy body weight will reduce the pressure on arthritic joints. Physical activity and exercise can be performed to help increase calories used daily, just remember to pace your activity levels and know your limits. The degeneration of cartilage will be accelerated by excess load so exercises that are non-weight bearing like cycling on a stationary bike or aqua sessions are recommended.
Muscle strength & Flexibility: When you have pain in a joint you may feel like you don’t want to move it. Over time lack of use will lead to a reduction in muscle strength and flexibility, this will lead to poor joint mobility. Maintaining good function in the muscles around the joint that has arthritis will help with the stability of the joint long term and may help slow down the degenerative process.
Recovery after Physical Activity & Pain Control
Arthritic joints can swell up and/or become painful due to many influences. Cooling the area can reduce the swelling and block the pain signal temporarily. Wrap a tea towel around a bag of peas and place on the affected joint for 5-10 minutes, you can repeat the process several times daily. Make sure you check your skin regularly so you don’t get frostbite and label the bag of peas so you don’t eat them as they will defrost and refreeze several times! Cooling gels that you apply to the area around the joint, anti-inflammatory medication and pain killers could also be used without prescription.