Exercise, Arthritis, and 8 Bonus Tips.

Robert L. Rosenberg, M.DBy: Robert L. Rosenberg, M.D.


Exercise has been used for centuries for relief of musculoskeletal problems. Despite controversies surrounding its use, exercise is still regularly prescribed for strengthening, conditioning, and relief of pain. Previous fears that exercise would be detrimental to joints, resulting in increased joint inflammation have not been realized.Rather, new research indicates that an appropriate and well-supervised exercise program for people with arthritis can help increase their strength and improve function. Proper exercise can supplement drug treatment of rheumatic conditions to gain and maintain functional motion

The benefits of regular exercise include maintenance of joint range of motion, improved strength and endurance, preservation of bone calcium, improved mood, and lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Muscle weakness from muscle inflammation, disuse, contractures and loss of stamina are common rheumatic conditions that will respond to exercise.

Exercise results in changes in the muscles which can be measured in terms of strength, endurance or range of motion. The specific exercise program should be chosen to produce the desired outcome safely in that particular patient. The swollen inflamed joint should not be put through excessive repetitions of

The swollen inflamed joint should not be put through excessive repetitions of range of motion against resistance. Pain persisting for more than one hour following exercises indicates excessive activity. Some pain may occur after a one to two day delay.

Water and Exercise Water exercises may also offer benefit. The effect of gravity is removed, thus reducing the amount of force the muscle must produce to put a joint through its range of motion. Buoyancy supports the body weight thus reducing stress on the lower body joints. Warm water provides local heat and general muscle relaxation. Hot water (over 100°F) should be avoided because of its dilating effect on the blood vessels. The Arthritis Foundation sponsors many local programs of water exercises and water aerobics.

Endurance can also be improved, but patients are cautioned to have their cardiovascular system evaluated before starting on an endurance training program. Endurance activities (running, jogging, swimming, walking, cycling, and dancing) should be performed at least 15 minutes daily 3-5 times weekly. Benefits are lost rapidly if the program is not performed regularly.

Stretching to increase range of motion and lengthen shortened tendons should be preceded by use of heat. Physical therapists will use hot packs or ultrasound before starting exercises and stretching tendons. Patients can use home hot pads or a hot shower before starting their stretching exercises.

The goals of an exercise program for arthritis patients are to maintain range of motion, strengthen muscles, increase endurance, improve joint biomechanics, increase bone calcium, and improve the patient’s overall function and feeling of well-being. Exercise programs, once initiated, need to be periodically adjusted to the patient’s progress and disease activity.

Planning A Mini Vacation During The Holidays?

Karen Reed provides 8 Tips For A Pain-Free Vacation with Rheumatoid Arthritis. If we were tweeting this powerful infographic we use the following hashtags- #MyAwesomeRheumLife #RACantStopMe #HolidayBlissWithArthritis.

Want more helpful information about living with arthritis? Visit WashingtonArthritis.com

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