What Is Arthritis?
Shoulder, hip and knee pain often associated with arthritis are among the most common complaints that doctors treat and affects upwards of 50 million Americans annually. Arthritis, the chronic painful stiffness and inflammation of the joints occurs with increasing frequency as we age. However, it’s never too early to take an active role in protecting your joints so that you can enjoy a long, active and pain-free life.
Origins of Arthritis
Arthritis and and the accompanying joint pain are caused by several contributing factors including the natural erosion and thinning of cartilage as we age, obesity, direct joint injuries, inflammation caused by poor diet or complicated by food allergies and finally, from chronic conditions such as loss of bone and muscle mass from illness or inactivity.
Common Types of Arthritis
In broad terms, arthritis is any disease that involves inflammation, swollen and painful joints or muscles and include the following types:
- Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is a degenerative joint disease that affects millions. As the cushioning cartilage normally surrounding the ends of bones begins to deteriorate they begin to rub together causing decreased range of motion, pain and stiffness. In severe cases, this lack of cushioning allows joints to grind together and will eventually result in permanent deformity.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. An autoimmune disease, Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease process that causes inflammation in the joints and resulting in painful deformity and immobility.
- Juvenile Arthritis. Juvenile arthritis, or pediatric rheumatic disease is a blanket label used to describe the autoimmune and inflammatory diseases that can develop in children under the age of 17. Juvenile arthritis in various forms, affects approximately 300,000 children in the United States. The most common symptoms of include swelling, pain, and stiffness in joints.
- Fibromyalgia does not directly affect the joints, it is a chronic disorder that involves widespread pain, fatigue, and tenderness that affects the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and soft tissues under the skin. Fibromyalgia is often long term and chronic.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis. Ankylosing Spondylitis is a painful inflammatory disease that affects the spine and can cause some of the vertebrae in your spine to fuse together. Symptoms include pain and stiffness from the neck down to the lower back.
Should you exercise if you have arthritis?
Many people with arthritis mistakenly believe they should avoid exercise and rest their muscles and joints. Inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle weakens cartilage and bone and increases the likelihood of damage and deterioration. A person with arthritis (regardless of age or gender) needs to exercise for the same reasons as everyone else, to maintain skeletal muscle, maintain or even increase flexibility and range of motion, to maintain heart health and to maintain bone density and strength.
Best Types Of Exercise For Arthritis:
Many arthritis sufferers find that physical therapy and exercise help reduce pain and minimizes stiffness. There are three types of exercise that work well for people with arthritis:
- Exercises that improve range of motion. Incorporate these exercises daily in order to help increase your level of flexibility and maintain or regain normal movement of your joints. Include back exercises to help relieve pain and stiffness.
- Exercises that improve strength. Strong muscles support and protect your joints. Follow a strength training program developed by your physical therapist or trainer and learn how to properly (and safely) perform these exercises.
- Cardiovascular exercises. Your cardiovascular health is important. While you may not be able to run, you can greatly benefit from walking, a stationary bicycle, swimming or any activity that safely increases and maintains an elevated heart rate and breathing. Cardio training will also burn calories and help you maintain a healthy weight, a weight problem will cause additional and painful pressure on your joints.
Try to include exercises from all three of these training types, but regardless of the exercises you choose, focus on exercises that do not cause you additional pain.
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General Arthritis Exercise Tips
As you exercise to increase the strength and flexibility in your joints, you will soon find exercises that you enjoy, but avoid doing the same workout over extended periods as it will result in overtraining and overuse injuries of your joints, especially your knees. Find a variety of workouts that you enjoy and alternate your exercise program and include a wide range of low or no-impact exercises like swimming or cycling and alternate training days with strength training exercises.
But don’t skip the weight or resistance training as it strengthens those muscles and the supporting ligaments surrounding your joints and protects them from damage or injury and may delay additional deterioration. Strength training also increases bone density (thickness) and bone strength, and stronger bones and muscles support your joints and take pressure off of them.
Your goal should be three or four session of twenty to thirty minutes each week. When your arthritis flares up you will be tempted to skip your workout, but keep in mind that arthritis sufferers who continually skip exercise are more likely to experience loss of muscle tone and flexibility, decreased joint motion and a progressive thinning and softening of bone and cartilage.
Lifestyle Changes To Improve Arthritis Symptoms
While you can’t stop the aging process, there are simple steps to prevent unnecessary damage or wear to your joints and to reduce joint pain or swelling beyond increasing activity and exercise.
Start by reducing your body weight. Excess body weight applies needless pressure to joints and cartilage and causes small tears that break down both. Losing as few as 10 pounds can reduce joint pain by as much as 50 percent and can prevent or at least delay the onset of osteoarthritis.
Eat more joint friendly, anti-inflammatory foods. Eat more anti-inflammatory foods including almonds, more fruits like apricots, cantaloupe, kiwi and blueberries, and more vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, celery, and cauliflower. These foods have been shown to reduce inflammation and help remove the toxins which cause inflammation in your body and worsen your arthritis. Add omega-3 fatty acids from fish, flax seeds, walnuts and avocados, these foods and foods high in antioxidants like berries also have been found to decrease the inflammation and joint swelling associated with your arthritis.
A healthy lifestyle including following an anti-inflammatory diet and participating in a regular exercise program are important parts of your arthritis prevention or treatment program. When combined, they reduce the effects of the arthritis by:
- Encouraging the flow of blood and synovial fluid to your joints.
- Strengthening the supporting structures including muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
- Increasing the range of motion and flexibility of the affected joints.
- Increasing antioxidants that reduce swelling.
- Reducing the processed sugars, starches and toxins that promote inflammation.
Don't let arthritis keep you from living a healthy, happy life. Take control of your arthritis today.
Many of our Gwee Gym customers struggle with arthritis, here are a few things they have to say about exercising with the Gwee Gym with arthritis:
"After years of trying to find an exercise routine I could do without aggravating my arthritis I finally found it with Gwee Gym. The low impact along with the continuous resistance was just what the Dr. ordered. Results are amazing and I couldn't be more pleased." - Amazon Customer
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