The perfect osteoarthritis exercise is one you can do comfortably, and without putting you in bed for 2 days afterward. When you are hurting though, where do you start?
First, make sure your doctor gives you the OK to exercise. If your arthritis has progressed to the point of bones rubbing on each other, there may be certain exercises they prefer you avoid or seek out. If your arthritis symptoms are mild to moderate, and you’ve had the clearance to exercise, keep reading.
And if you don’t find what you’re looking for here, there’s a “search” bar over there to the right to help you. 🙂
If you have arthritis and hurt badly, and you’ve never really been much of an exerciser, it can be hard to figure out where to start. I recommend
stretching to my patients as a first line of defense against pain. It needs no special equipment, you can do it anywhere, you don’t have to be strong, and it works.
Walking is the single best exercise for arthritis sufferers. It is low impact, can be done anywhere, and requires nothing but a good pair of sneakers. If you hurt, start slow. If you’ve never exercised or have been sedentary for a long time, just go out the front door, walk two minutes down the block, and turn around and go home. The next day, do three minutes, and so on until you can comfortably walk 20 minutes per day. By breaking it into little chunks of time, you get your aching joints used to the movement without injuring them and you gradually get them used to more activity.
Walking is great because it gets your entire body moving, providing lubrication to the joints, and increasing circulation. It is the single most widely recommended exercise by health care providers.
My Omi (grandmother) had horrible arthritis in her hands. She lived in Florida, and I remember even on the hottest days, she would wear long sleeved shirts and even gloves sometimes due to pain. Her doctor told her to start walking every day, and she did. On my last trip to visit her before her Alzheimer’s set in, I noticed she wasn’t wearing gloves. She told me that her hands didn’t hurt much anymore, and she thought it was because of the walking. Now that I’m a health care provider, I remember that story, and recommend walking to the people I talk to.
If you’ve been active but had to stop due to pain, walking is great to get you going again. The key point is to listen to your body. If you ache then you’re doing too much.
Another exercise that is so good for helping back pain is yoga. With its focus on breathing and stretching, this exercise can make a big difference long term in how you feel. To learn more about yoga for back pain, follow this link. There you can read about how it helps, how to get started, which poses to concentrate on, and you’ll find resources to help you.
There are also some specific exercises you can do at home as a back pain treatment. These exercises are again designed to strengthen the back and the muscles that support the back, giving you the support you need. To see an example of back pain exercise, click here.
One machine I particularly like is the ROM Exercise Machine.
Especially if you have severe arthritis, this machine gives you the chance to get more active with very little pressure on your joints. There are several gyms and fitness centers that have them, and if this looks interesting to you, you should try to find one in your town.
Here in the Antelope Valley (Lancaster, Palmdale CA) you can find one of these machines at 4 Minute Fitness Center.
If you live in a warm climate or have access to a heated or indoor pool, swimming and water aerobics classes are great osteoarthritis exercises. The water keeps the pressure completely off the joints and the warmth is soothing to aching muscles. Water aerobics also gets your heart working, which means more oxygen to your tissues which leads to faster healing.
This is a particularly good osteoarthritis exercise for patients with arthritis of the spine and arthritis in the knee. Both of these conditions respond really well to the warm water and movement. The discs in your spine do not have their own blood supply and must get nutrients from the surrounding tissues. They do it by a process called “imbibing.” If you’ve ever put a dry sponge in a puddle of water and watched it soak the water up, you know what imbibing is. The exercises in the water allow your spine to move freely and this motion helps the discs imbibe, or absorb, nutrients. This a really important point to prevent further degeneration!
What’s really important for any patient with arthritis is stretching. Especially after walking or other activity because stretching allows the already warm muscle to lengthen and become more flexible. Why is this important?
Remember the roots of the word arthritis (bone, joint, inflammation). Surrounding each bone and joint are muscles. If the muscles on either side of the joint are tight, they’re going to put pressure on it. If that joint already hurts, the increased pressure from the tight muscle will make it hurt MORE. But if you can relieve some of that pressure (which stretching will do) you can relieve pain.
For a complete guide on back pain stretching exercise, click here.
If you have successfully started an osteoarthritis exercise program, will you consider leaving a comment so others can be helped, too?
If you have arthritis and have found an exercise that helps you feel better, please share it with others. This is also a great way to leave tips that worked for you, so others who are hurting can learn what works. Thanks!