Fitness Column: Exercise to Ease Arthritis Pain

Fitness Column: Exercise to Ease Arthritis Pain

For those of you who are experiencing arthritis pain, exercise may be just the right prescription for you. Whether your arthritis is rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, several studies have shown that a regular program of moderate exercise can be one of the best ways to reduce arthritis pain.

Arthritis affects the joints of the body. To stay healthy, the joints need to be mobile and strong. Regular exercise helps keep joints strong and healthy.

When arthritis strikes a person, it can make activity more difficult and painful. This causes many people to limit their activity. This reduced activity, in turn, allows for further joint weakness and greater immobility and increased pain.

Exercise strengthens the entire joint, including the tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bones. In addition, exercise helps the body produce and utilize synovial fluid, the joints lubricant. Increasing joint strength and lubrication allows for more movement and regular activity, which helps maintain pain-free mobility and functionality.

Additionally, when a person is pain-free, they feel better psychologically. This allows them to focus on maintaining overall health by watching their weight, eating right, and controlling other health issues.

Another major benefit of exercise for arthritis sufferers is the ability to limit their need for pain medication. By being able to reduce or eliminate pain medication, those with arthritis can avoid the unfortunate side effects of many pain relievers.

Unfortunately, those people with arthritis often need to take large quantities of medication and take it for a long period of time. The bottom line is, the less medication a person needs to take, the better. And, if joint pain can be reduced or eliminated through exercise, the pain medication can become less necessary.

The next need then, is to determine the right exercise program. Because of the limitations of the joints and the potential for pain, arthritis sufferers must start slowly and increase gradually over time.

For some, it may be necessary to begin with simple stretching exercises. If necessary, begin in a seated position and stretch the joints through a comfortable, pain-free range of motion.

Next, move to standing stretches to help increase both range of motion and balance. As allowed, add walking to your program, again increasing duration and intensity as you progress.
One of the best ways for arthritis sufferers to reduce pain is to strengthen the muscles and joints through weigh training, resistance exercises. The increased muscle strength will help take unneeded stress off the joint, while increased joint strength will allow more pain-free mobility. Often, the additional strength can allow a person to add back daily activities that they had to give up previously because of the pain.

As always, it’s best to check with your physician or fitness professional before beginning an exercise program to ensure that you include the right exercises and avoid those that won’t work for you.

If you are experiencing arthritis pain, consider exercise as a way to reduce your discomfort and control your need for pain medication. The stronger, healthier joints you develop could change your life and lifestyle.

Kent Pegg is a certified personal trainer and the owner of the Los Alamos Fitness Center. Direct questions about the information or exercises in this column to him at 505.662.5232.

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