Understanding Exercise and Arthritis

Health Check

Understanding exercise and arthritis is important since sports medicine professionals preach the benefits of exercise to everyone. However, exercise alone is not a cure-all, especially if you suffer from osteoarthritis. This disease, which affects over 40 million Americans, requires a multidisciplinary approach to achieve successful management.

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease affects the cartilage lining of weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees. As the cartilage lining deteriorates, it exposes the underlying bone to constant pressure as you move. As a result, these exposed areas produce excess bone, the joint becomes enlarged, and loss of mobility quickly ensues.

Generally, osteoarthritis occurs in older adults and is twice as prevalent in those who are obese. Individuals who have had traumatic injury to the hip, knee or ankle are also more likely to develop arthritis if the cartilage lining was injured. Usually a physician diagnoses this condition with an x-ray but only after the patient complains of joint pain and stiffness.

Understanding Exercise and Arthritis – Is It Appropriate?

Proper medical management of this condition should begin with your physician who will work to do the following:

– Relieve pain,
– Reduce swelling,
– Prescribe your physical therapy program,
– Determine the correct balance of medication exercise, rest and diet,
– Educate you about your disease,
– Review your progress with you.

In conclusion, it is essential that the physical therapy program you use provide education related to your condition. There are local programs that provide information on how to plan your daily activities and protect your joints from arthritic deterioration by using special tools and devices. Chester County also has several heated pool therapy programs to exercise people with arthritic joints. The warm water helps reduce pain and stiffness and the buoyancy effect reduces pressure on joints, allowing for greater hip and knee movement. Performing exercises against the resistance of water is also helpful in strengthening muscles around arthritic joints to retard further joint surface damage.

Please refer to patient education for other brief articles in our educational series. It is through these articles, in part, that we keep our patients (and others) informed of common injuries and conditions, their treatment and healthcare in general.