Dubai, UAE: Arthritis refers to a group of rheumatic diseases and degenerative conditions that can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints.
Awareness, early diagnosis and an aggressive treatment are keys to stopping arthritis from taking over your life, says Sandhya Reji Isaac, physiotherapist, Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah.
Exercise is one part of a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan. The other treatment plans also may include medication, rest and relaxation, proper diet, instructions on proper use of joints, ways to conserve energy and other pain relief methods like heat, cold and electrical stimulation.
For many years it was thought that people with arthritis should not exercise because it would damage their joints. While rest is important, especially during flare ups, lack of physical activity can cause increased muscle weakness, joint stiffness, reduced range of motion, fatigue and general de-conditioning. Hence, current recommendations emphasise a balance of physical activity and rest.
Exercise helps people with arthritis in many ways:
Reduces joint pain, swelling and stiffness
Keep the muscles, bones and cartilage tissue strong and healthy
Enhance weight loss
Improves self-esteem and sense of well being
Three types of exercises are best for people with arthritis
Range of motion exercise: Helps maintain normal joint movement, reduce stiffness and keep joints flexible
Strengthening exercise: Help maintain or improve strength of the muscles that support and protect the joints affected by arthritis.
Aerobic or endurance exercise: Exercises like walking, swimming and bicycling improves your quality of life. Walking is better than running for people with arthritis. Swimming and exercises in warm water are good for stiff sore joints. Warm water help relaxes your muscles and decrease your pain and it is beneficial for individuals who have difficulty with weight bearing. Bicycling especially on an indoor stationary bicycle is a good way to improve your fitness.
People with arthritis should discuss their exercise plans with their doctor. The amount and form of exercise recommended for each individual will vary depending on which joints are involved, how stable the joints are and whether a joint replacement procedure has been done. The physiotherapist can help design an exercise programme that meets individual needs. Begin your activity at a slow intensity and build up gradually as symptoms permit. A good general rule to remember is to stop exercising if you start having sharp pain or more pain than usual. If the joint feels hot avoid exercise.
© Khaleej TimesJan 2013