Simple Tips for Staying Active with Arthritis
Living with Arthritis
Living with persistent joint pain can make exercise seem like an impossible mission. However, movement is one of the best things you can do for a joint that has some arthritic changes. To better understand what arthritis is and what causes it, visit our previous blog “6 Golden Rules for Osteoarthritis“.
Motion is Lotion, Movement is Medicine
For too long the public have been led to believe that joints degrade as we age, and the more punishment you put it through, the more it degrades. However, movement is good for the joint.
- Compression (eg: the impact on the knee during running and walking) stimulates growth of the good protective cartilage linings in the joint.
- Movement can help with maintaining weight, which can help with reducing the load.
- Building strength and muscle mass can help distribute the forces across the whole limb, rather than relying on the joint to take the weight.
- Learning good movement patterns gives your body more options, so that it doesn’t rely on one joint too frequently.
- Healthy lifestyle can decrease inflammation and have a direct improvement on pain and joint health.
The key to exercising or doing daily tasks is pacing. Pacing means slowing down and doing less. If you’ve been in pain for a long time, or if you’ve been less active than in previous years, then it’s unlikely that you can do the same amount of physical activity. It’s about breaking up tasks into a series of smaller bouts. If your goal is to vacuum the house, you may need to do it one room at a time, having a rest in between each – whether that’s for a few minutes, an hour, or a day.
The second key component to increasing your pain-free activity is graded exposure. Graded exposure means steadily increasing your exposure to a given task or physical activity. If you’ve been vacuuming one room per day for the last 2 weeks and it hasn’t stirred up your joint pain, then you’re likely ready to increase to 2 rooms per day. After a couple more weeks you can likely do 3 rooms, then in another fortnight doing half the house. Over a period of weeks and months, you can slowly expose your body to the task that was once flaring it up.
Walking is often an aggravating activity, but usually people have an amount they can cope with before pain sets in. Think about your baseline, can you walk your block? Maybe walking to your letterbox is as far as you can handle? Whatever is your current yardstick, do that consistently for 2 weeks and then slightly increase the time or distance by 5-10%. Every 1-2 weeks increase your time and distance, ensuring you have lots of rest and recovery to complement it.