Arthritis, in all its many forms, presents a huge dilemma for sufferers: One of the best ways to fight back — exercise — is blocked by the disease itself.
Arthritis is a catchall term for more than 100 conditions that cause pain, swelling, and stiffness in your joints. Most people suffer from osteoarthritis, in fact 91 million in the United States alone are affected by this degenerative form of the disease. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for arthritis, but there’s much you can do to halt, slow, and even delay its onset through good, old-fashioned exercise.
Here at Westside Pain Specialists in Beverly Hills, California, Dr. James Nassiri understands the problem this poses: The pain and stiffness of your arthritis present a seeming unscalable wall between you and exercise. But with a little patience and perseverance, we can help you get your joints moving freely again, allowing you to lead a happy, active life.
In the following, we outline five ways to exercise when you’re dealing with arthritis.
1. Stretch it out
Before you grab your sneakers and attempt a run, we urge you to ease into an exercise regimen by starting out with a good stretching routine. When you first wake up in the morning, try a few stretches from the comfort of your bed. Draw your knees up to your chest, and hold them there for a minute or two. Then place your feet back on the bed with your legs still bent, and let your knees drop from one side to the other.
Next, sit up and try some hip openers by simply reaching out toward your toes. You can spread your legs and reach to each side in turn.
These gentle stretches do wonders for starting your day out right by easing your joints into action.
2. Don’t pound it out
If you’re suffering from arthritis, your joints are taking enough of a beating, so you should skip activities like running, which compound your problem by adding additional concussive forces on your joints. Instead, try activities that release your joints from persistent pounding.
As an example, swimming is one of the best ways to exercise your entire body without overtaxing your joints. The water suspends your joints, while also allowing you to move them freely.
You can also design a small home gym (or go to one), and try some stationary weight lifting. An elliptical machine is also a great way to exercise and strengthen your joints without, literally, hitting the pavement.
3. Develop a yoga practice
Here in Southern California, there’s no shortage of yoga studios that offer classes for every level, and we urge you to join the movement. Grab a mat, and see why yoga is one of the best exercise practices for your entire body, especially if you have arthritis. Because yoga concentrates on flexibility, range of motion, and strengthening, your joints benefit in myriad ways.
4. Spin your wheels
Another great exercise for arthritis sufferers is cycling. Whether it’s a leisurely ride down along the shore or tackling some of the hills in the area, cycling strengthens the muscles around your joints, taking some of the pressure off of them. Cycling also keeps the joints in the lower half of your body moving, preventing stiffness.
5. Be kind to yourself
This last point is an important one. The last thing we want you to do is to overdo it. Some days are better than others for arthritis sufferers, so if you’re having a particularly painful day, take it easy. Use some hot and cold therapies to relieve the discomfort, and call it a rest day with only some gentle stretching to keep your joints moving.
On “normal” days, try warming your body up with a warm shower before you exercise and then use ice afterward to reduce any inflammation in your joints. Always stretch before you exercise and pay close attention to your body while you work out. If your body is objecting loudly and painfully, don’t push yourself.
That said, arthritis can be a constant companion, so there will be times when you’ll need to soldier through some discomfort for the benefit of your joints. But the results are worth it as you build the strength and flexibility needed to combat the disease.
To find out which exercises would be best for your arthritis, please feel free to call us or use the “request appointment” button on this website to set up a consultation.