Exercise Is Only ‘Miracle Pill’ for Arthritis Pain
Arthritis affects nearly a quarter of all adults in the United States, and brings with it severely debilitating pain. Arthritis pain can make it difficult to move your joints when you first wake up, and impossible to open even a jar of jelly. What is more, it can cause severe discomfort during activities and movements that should be pain-free. Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis, leaving many individuals searching for options that can at least offer some arthritis pain relief and increase their mobility.
Arthritis pain treatment – what are the options?
When it comes to treating arthritis pain, there is an abundance of options to choose from. Many arthritis sufferers turn to pain relieving medications such as non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, but these drugs are not always the best option for relieving arthritis pain. For one, they are not always effective for all types of arthritis pain, but can also bring about unwanted side-effects such as an increased risk of heart attack, stomach ulcers or liver failure, especially with long-term use.
For those of us looking for a safer form of arthritis pain treatment that can be used in the long term, there are still plenty of options. Topical pain-relieving creams and ointments, massage therapy, acupuncture and dietary changes can all offer improvements in arthritis symptoms and reduce pain associated with arthritis. Exercise, however, may be the best treatment for arthritis pain – plus it also offers benefits to pretty much every aspect of our mental and physical health.
How exercise improves arthritis symptoms
Everyone with arthritis knows how painful the mornings can be when you first wake up and your joints are stiff. You may have to move your joints for several minutes before the pain even begins to subside and you can start to think about the rest of your day. The simple exercises we do when we first wake up (like making a fist several times or stretching our legs out) help to increase blood flow to our stiff joints, which reduces swelling and inflammation, and provides nutrients and oxygen. While it is important to exercise our stiff joints, focusing on moving the rest of our body can also provide significant relief from arthritis symptoms.
Regular exercise helps us to maintain a healthy weight, which ensures we aren’t putting more stress on our joints than we have to. Even losing five pounds can make a big difference to your knee or ankle joints, which have to carry your body around every day. What is more, the brain loves exercise so much that it releases endorphins afterwards – chemicals that make us feel good and naturally reduce pain. By exercising regularly and releasing endorphins we can reduce arthritis pain, as well as lower our stress levels and improve our sleep.
The best exercises for arthritis pain management
Of course, not all exercises are suitable for arthritis sufferers. It is important to talk to your doctor first to ensure you can develop an exercise routine that is suitable for you. In general, choose exercises that are non-weight bearing, and try to focus on activities that provide a combination of aerobic activity (the ones that make you breathe heavily and increase your heart rate) and strength training. Some exercises you may find beneficial are:
Swimming. Swimming is an amazing whole-body workout. It is non-weight bearing, easy on the joints and relaxing, but offers great aerobic exercise and also helps to strengthen your muscles. Water aerobics offers similar benefits and is a fun alternative for those of us who find swimming up and down a pool a little monotonous.
Stationary bikes or ellipticals. If you have access to a gym, the stationary bikes and ellipticals can provide a great aerobic workout. These are much easier on your joints than jogging on a treadmill and can really help to get your blood pumping and keep your weight in a healthy range.
Yoga. On the days where your pain is more severe or you don’t have the energy for more intense activity, yoga is a great substitute. Yoga helps to improve strength and flexibility, and can reduce stiffness and pain associated with arthritis. Some yoga poses and stretches can be a bit harsh on your joints, so stay away from anything that puts pressure on your wrists, elbows or knees.
Things to keep in mind when exercising with arthritis
Although it can be hard to want to exercise when you are in pain, it is important to remember that exercise will help to make you feel better and improve your mobility. If a certain exercise is causing you pain, make sure you stop – it is important to listen to your body. Remember that inactivity is one of the worst things you can do for arthritis pain – even a brisk walk around your house will help to loosen your joints and improve your range of movement for the rest of the day.