Can I make my Osteoarthritis symptoms better?
Many people suffer from osteoarthritis, and it can be pretty debilitating, causing lots of pain in discomfort. But there are ways to diminish your pain and allow you to have more movement, less pain, and really live your life.
What is it?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that is a breakdown of cartilage in joints (the padding between bones) and is the most common form of arthritis. It usually occurs in the weight bearing joints, like your hips, knees, and spine, but it can be found in any joint in the body. When the cartilage that acts as a buffer between two bones starts to wear away from overuse (due to repetitive motions in life, too much strain from weight, injury to the joint, and/or genetics) there is no shock absorption between the bones and it can be extremely painful. Many people tend to limit their exercise and it can really alter how they function in their every day life.
What's the deal?
It has been long recommended that people with OA should get at least 20 minutes of moderate exercise daily, to help keep the joint moving, and allow for increased mobility. It can be sore at first, but the joint will loosen and feel better as it warms up. Unfortunately, a study at Northeastern University, looking at 1,000 people ages 49 to 84 with OA, found that 90% of the subjects get little to no exercise, like less that 10 minutes a day!!! That is crazy! Around 40% of men and 60% of women over the age of 60 with OA are basically complete couch potatoes. That makes you into a self fulfilling prophecy, really. You fear that there will be pain with movements, so you don't move a lot, then when you do, it is extremely painful. Exercise helps to basically "massage" the joint and help extra blood flow to the area and ease pain, when there is OA, there is a lack of blood flow due to diminished cartilage, so exercising the joints helps encourage blood flow, literally warming them up, and making the movements less painful and occur easier. Also, by exercising the muscles that surround a joint, you are helping to add protection to the joint, stronger surrounding muscles can help to stabilize the joint and decrease the amount of weight and pressure on the joint. Exercise will not reverse the damage that you have, but will make living with the disease more bearable, and allow you to live your life, and not in fear of pain.
What Exercise is Best?
Really whatever you tolerate! Start low with weights and go slow in increasing weights, as you feel comfortable. Something that might be a good start and is low weight bearing is water aerobics, also Pilate's and yoga can help you increase muscle strength and stretching without heavy impact on your joints. Talk to your HCP about what exercises you should do, and get a referral for a physical therapist. If you don't want to go to physical therapy, working with a personal trainer might be beneficial (but usually physical therapy is covered by insurance, with an HCP referral). And try to get a minimum of 20 minutes a day, if you feel comfortable doing more, and you can tolerate it, then go for it!
Long story short, don't let OA ruin your life. You can still live an active lifestyle, you just might need to put more work into it, than you previously had, but your life is long from over!
Yours in Good Health