Joint Pain Forum – News you can use!
Oh my aching joints
June 8, 2007
Exercise more, and smarter, to alleviate the pain of osteoarthritis
Recently, while attending one of my daughter's high school swim meets,
I watched how effortlessly the teenagers hopped up and down the
bleachers. I recall doing similar things without a second thought.
However, like other 40-somethings, I now have to pay attention to how I
do things. If I exhibited the reckless abandon of my youth, chances are
I would aggravate some of the underlying joint conditions I've
collected over time.
The same is true for those who suffer from osteoarthritis (OA), the
most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage
in the joint spaces wears down and loses its integrity. As a result,
the bony surface of the joint can become damaged and rough, and moving
it can be painful. There can be swelling in the joint, as well as
limitation of its range of motion. Osteoarthritis is most commonly seen
in the hands, back, hips and knees.
Here are two things that you can do to improve your osteoarthritis:
Lose weight. Those who have OA in a weight-bearing joint (the feet,
hips, knees, etc.) can significantly improve the function of the joint
by taking the weight off it. I realize this is easy to say and
sometimes hard to do, but it needs to be a primary goal if you suffer
Exercise smarter, not harder. Because exertion of the joint is
associated with pain, many OA sufferers find themselves doing less and
less physical activity. But these folks should be exercising more, not
less -- and exercising smarter, not harder.
As we get older, the muscles of the body tend to atrophy (become
smaller, less toned and weaker). But strong, toned muscles help to
support the joints they surround. Think of them as joint "shock
absorbers." As the muscles weaken with age, their capacity to absorb
the shock for the joints diminishes, worsening OA symptoms. Here's the
catch: You have to start slowly.
Because this is a lifelong endeavor, don't overdo itat
the beginning. An appropriate exercise program should include
low-impact aerobic exercise, stretching and muscle-strengthening.
Working with a personal trainer is a great way to start. He or she can
assess your limitations and ease you into a program that's both
effective and right for you. For those who have more serious joint
issues, I often make a referral to a physical therapist. That way,
patients can learn in greater detail about what their initial
limitations may be.
Keep in mind that a joint that has OA won't be cured,
so an activity program should be part of the ongoing treatment plan.
Leave behind the "no pain, no gain" mentality and focus on exercising
frequently and moderately. Consider the activity "medication" for the
arthritis. If you take too little of the "medicine" or take it
infrequently, you won't get its benefit. If you take too much, there
are problematic side effects. However, take it in the right amount at
the right frequency and your joints will be happy you did.
Arthritic joints can't be cured, but staying active will help relieve your symptoms.
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