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The Best Non-Drug Treatment for Arthritis

 Westminster Village August 02, 2014
By Molly Householder, CPT and Wellness Director, Westminster Village

Are you 1 of the 27 million Americans that deal with the aches and pains of arthritis? There are many different forms of arthritis, the most common being osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a breakdown in the cartilage covering the ends of the bones where they meet to form a joint and allow movement. As the cartilage wears away, the bones become exposed and rub against each other. The deterioration of cartilage also affects the shape and makeup of the joint so that it no longer functions smoothly. Although arthritis occurs in people of all ages, it is most common in people older than 65. The most common symptoms associated with arthritis are stiffness and pain. The most commonly affected joints are the lower back, hips, knees, and feet. While people used to believe that exercise and arthritis were a terrible combination, research demonstrates the opposite is true. Exercise can actually decrease joint pain and stiffness, and improve flexibility and mobility for people struggling with arthritis.

Though it may be intimidating to begin an exercise program when dealing with arthritis, it is one of the best means to managing the pain and stiffness caused by the disease. Patience White, MD, MA, and Vice President of Public Health at the Arthritis Foundation stated that, “Exercise keeps the muscles strong around a joint so that the mechanics work.” Before starting any program, make sure it is OK with your physician. You should begin exercising consistently but slowly. Try to do at least 30 minutes of physical exercise four to five times a week. These workouts can be in increments or all at once depending on what your joints can tolerate. It is always better to err on the side of being too easy.

Three of the most important kinds of exercise for people with osteoarthritis include: range of motion or flexibility, aerobic endurance, and strengthening exercises. Each type of exercise plays a role in maintaining and improving your ability to move and function. Range-of-motion exercises include gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full range of motion. Doing these exercises regularly can help maintain and even improve flexibility in your joints. Aerobic endurance exercise strengthens your heart and makes your lungs more efficient. These exercises are important in reducing fatigue and maintaining your weight. Start with low impact aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, or riding a bike. Strengthening exercises improve your muscle strength and strong muscles can support and protect joints that are affected by arthritis.

Here are a few tips to remember if you have arthritis and are going to start an exercise program:
• Start slow, but be consistent with your workouts
• Modify your exercise if your pain gets worse, but try to stay active
• Exercises should be low-impact and gentle on the joints
• Always check with your physician before starting a new activity
• Stay hydrated; water is crucial in repairing muscles after a workout and preventing aches and pains caused by dehydration

So grab your sneakers, a bottle of water, and get moving. Don’t let arthritis stand in the way of you being active!

For more information, please contact Molly Householder, CPT and wellness director, Westminster Village at 309-663-6474 or email: [email protected].

Photo credit: Purestock/Thinkstock Back to Top

 Westminster Village| August 02, 2014

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