Millions of Americans suffer from arthritis, including about 60 million people who’ve been medically diagnosed with the disease. While there are different types of arthritis, they all have one thing in common: They all cause joint pain and stiffness that can wind up limiting your mobility.
When it comes to reducing symptoms and improving joint health, medical treatments can help. However, what many people don’t realize is that exercise can help in these two areas, too!
As a leading orthopedics specialist, Thomas Powell, MD, of Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, routinely prescribes exercise as part of a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan. If you have arthritis, here’s how a regular exercise routine tailored to your lifestyle could help you.
Quick facts about arthritis
Arthritis is a collection of diseases that cause inflammation and damage inside your joints. Osteoarthritis is by far the most common type of arthritis, which develops after years of wear and tear on your joints’ surfaces. Other types of arthritis, such as psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, happen when your immune system malfunctions and attacks the cells lining your joints’ surfaces.
Many of us think of joints as just the junctions of two or more bones, but joints are more complex than that. The ends of bones are protected by layers of rubbery cartilage, and your joints also contain fluids that promote smooth movement and reduce friction. In arthritis, your joints become inflamed, hastening the breakdown of that protective layer of cartilage and increasing the friction.
Arthritis is a degenerative disease, which means the severity of the disease and its symptoms tends to worsen over time. While there’s no cure for arthritis, it can be managed with a custom treatment plan that evolves along with the symptoms.
How exercise helps
Medication — oral and injectable — plays a key role in helping many people manage pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. However, lifestyle changes can help, too. If you have arthritis, one of the most important lifestyle changes you can make is to add exercise to your routine.
When your joints are sore, moving more may seem like the last thing you want to do, and it may seem like the last thing that can help your joints feel better. But, as it turns out, exercise can help reduce symptoms, help protect your joints, and help slow the damage caused by arthritis.
Benefits of exercise
Regular exercise can strengthen the muscles that support your joints. And that added strength can relieve excess strain on your joints, which, in turn, can relieve painful symptoms. In addition to building strength, regular exercise can improve your balance, which can reduce joint strain and your risk of falling.
A daily exercise routine can also help keep joint fluid distributed inside your joints, which can make it easier to keep inflammation under control. If you’re overweight, exercise can also help you drop those pounds, which can relieve the additional joint strain the extra weight may cause.
Finally, daily exercise is a great mood-booster. Dealing with arthritis symptoms on a daily basis can quickly take a toll on you emotionally, especially if your symptoms prevent you from doing activities you enjoy. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which are natural “feel good” chemicals, and these chemicals can help balance your mood so you can cope with your symptoms more effectively.
Find an exercise routine that works for you
While daily exercise provides plenty of benefits for people with arthritis, the wrong kind of exercise can make your symptoms worse. Dr. Powell can work with you to design an exercise plan that provides optimal benefits without causing more pain and stiffness.
In addition to at-home exercises, he may recommend regular sessions with a physical therapist to fine-tune your plan and make sure it’s ideal for your needs.
If you have arthritis and want to work with Dr. Powell to develop an exercise plan, call 205-606-5232 or book an appointment online with Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine today.