Regular exercise plays an effective role in osteoarthritis treatment

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Regular exercise plays an effective role in osteoarthritis treatment

Various studies have shown that osteoarthritis patients who exercise regularly are able to perform their daily activities better and remain independent. Hence, exercise forms an integral part of Osteoarthritis management plan. Regular exercising helps to: relieve pain & stiffness, increase muscle strength and improve stability of joints. It also helps to improve the range of motion(flexibility) of the affected joint (knee, hip etc.). Exercise also helps to reduce weight, which is one of the risk factors for developing osteoarthritis. Apart from all this exercise induces a sense of well being by increasing the secretion of ‘feel-good’ hormones (called endorphins), which help to reduce stress.

Overall, exercise helps people having osteoarthritis function better, and may also delay or prevent the need for surgery. Study has also shown that in older adults with osteoarthritis exercise helps to improve posture and balance, thus reducing the chance of falls.

types of exercises helpful IN OSTEOARTHRITIS MANAGEMENT

Exercises that will help a person with osteoarthritis include:

  • Aerobic exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Range-of-motion (flexibility) exercises

Aerobic exercises

  • These help to build stamina, control weight and improve the endurance of your heart.
  • Common aerobic exercises include walking, swimming, bicycling or exercising on equipments such as treadmill or rowing machines. Activities such as mowing the lawn, walking the dog, playing golf etc. are also considered aerobic exercises.
  • Start these exercises slowly. For example, exercise for 5 minutes at a time, a couple of times a day. Then increase your time gradually, with a goal of doing 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week.

Strengthening exercises

  • Helps to improve and maintain strength of muscles.
  • Some examples of strengthening exercises include weight training with dumbbells, chin-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, side leg-lifts.
  • However, always ask your doctor about the suitability of exercises you plan to include in your routine with respect to your specific requirements.

Range-of-motion exercises

  • Helps to improve the flexibility of joints and reduce stiffness.
  • These include stretching exercises such as calf stretch, quadriceps (thigh) stretch, and hamstring (tendons in the back of the knee) stretch.
  • The stretching movement should be done slowly.  
  • Stretch till a limit, which is comfortable, as well as produces a feeling of resistance. Remain in this position for 10-30 seconds and then gradually return to the resting position.

Exercises for osteoarthritis of the knee: Specific exercises that are helpful for people who have knee osteoarthritis include:

  • Quadriceps (thigh) strengthening exercises. While sitting on a chair, straighten your leg and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times with each knee. Practice this every day up to 3 times a day.
  • Knee extension exercises. Sit on a chair with your foot resting on a stool across from you and your knee slightly raised. Gently push the raised knee toward the floor using only your leg muscles. You should feel a pull (it should not pain). Hold the stretch for 5 to 10 seconds, and then rest a minute. Repeat 10 times with each knee. Practice every day up to 3 times a day.

Starting with the exercise programME

Here are some tips which will help you to start your exercise programme safely and judiciously:

  • Always consult your doctor and get an exercise programme tailored to your needs.
  • To begin with exercise under the supervision of a physical therapist or a qualified trainer.
  • Avoid exercising during flare-ups i.e. when you are having severe symptoms.
  • Apply hot packs, warm towels etc. (heat applications) to the sore joint before starting the exercise.
  • Warm up before exercising by starting your exercise at a slower pace.
  • Exercise at a comfortable place and allow your muscle to relax in between.
  • Wearing uncomfortable/wrong shoes during exercise can further damage the joints. Hence, wear comfortable and well-cushioned shoes while exercising. Shoes with rubber heels reduce jarring (sudden impact) and also minimize the risk of slipping.
  • Exercise for at least 3 days and not more than 4 days in a week.
  • Try to gradually increase the duration and intensity of exercise over a period of 2-3 months. Any exercise regimen advanced too quickly can worsen the symptoms and result in complications.
  • Avoid jerky movements during exercise.
  • Do not over do the exercises. Joint pain that lasts longer than 2 hours after exercise may be a sign of over exercising. Over exercising can cause musculoskeletal injuries.
  • Stop exercising immediately if it hurts, and consult your doctor.
  • If your knee is sore after exercising, try applying ice to your knee. This can be done by wrapping a towel around a bag of ice or frozen vegetables and then putting the bag on your knee for 10 to 20 minutes. However, if you have pain or swelling that lasts more than 2 hours and persists the next day, either rest or reduce the amount of exercise and consult your doctor.
  • High impact exercises or sports such as jogging, skipping, football, soccer etc. put excessive stress on the joints and hence should be avoided.
  • Do not do play sports that twist or turn the joints such as tennis, baseball, basketball, badminton etc.

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