When you have intense joint pain, just getting out of bed can be a chore. So, we understand if the last thing you want to do is increase your movement.
But if your joint pain has turned you into a couch potato, you're missing out on the most effective, natural pain and symptom reliever available.
This Osteoarthritis Awareness Month, our team at LA Orthopaedic Specialists is taking a moment to highlight the importance of regular exercise for osteoarthritis management and giving you a few activities you can start doing today.
Low-impact cardiovascular exercise
When you think about working out, you likely picture running around town or on a treadmill. But we think there’s a better way.
Slamming your feet on hard surfaces only adds to the stress your body weight puts on your damaged joints. So, go for low impact.
Low-impact cardiovascular exercises get your heart pumping without putting too much stress on your joints. Some examples of low-impact cardiovascular exercise include walking, cycling, and swimming. In one fell swoop, you can improve cardiovascular health, lose weight safely, and strengthen the muscles around your arthritic joints — all essential for managing osteoarthritis.
Resistance training focuses on strengthening your surrounding muscles, which is crucial to supporting and protecting your joints. It can also help reduce the pain and stiffness that often come with osteoarthritis.
Resistance training exercises usually look like lifting weights, but you can start by using resistance bands. Body weight exercises like squats and lunges can also be effective. Remember, you don’t have to become a bodybuilder overnight. In fact, we encourage you not to dive head-first into weight training. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase the weight you use to avoid causing injury and/or additional stress on your joints.
You don’t always have to break a sweat to get relief from arthritis — stretching is another crucial component of an effective osteoarthritis exercise program. Stretching improves flexibility and range of motion, which can help arthritic joints move more efficiently and feel less stiff.
Some great stretching exercises include yoga, Pilates, and even simple static stretches. Hold each position for about 30 seconds, listening closely to your body so you don't overextend your muscles.
Want even more joint protection during your workouts? Try hopping in the water. The buoyancy of water reduces pressure on your joints, making water exercise an ideal form of exercise for people with osteoarthritis.
We love it because it combines the safety of a low-impact workout with the muscle-building benefits of resistance training. Our favorite aquatic activities include swimming, water aerobics, and pool walking.
Tai chi is another low-impact, slow-motion exercise that involves moving through a series of gentle movements and breathing exercises. Tai chi can help improve balance and joint flexibility. Bonus: It also reduces stress.
Not interested in tai chi? Try yoga or Pilates, other effective mind-body workouts.
Keep in mind
Exercise is one of the best ways to manage osteoarthritis, but if you're not careful, you can wind up in more pain than you started with. Follow these rules of thumb, especially if you're a workout novice:
- Wear comfortable, supportive shoes
- Use all equipment properly
- Start slowly and increase the intensity gradually
- Consult our team before starting a new program
- Listen to your body, and stop if you feel pain
You must also support your workouts with plenty of hydration and a healthy diet. We can help you create a customized health plan and walk you through the finer points of your program.
Ready to see what movement can do for your achy joints? Schedule an appointment with us at our Los Angeles, California, office to create a safe and effective exercise plan for your individual needs. Call or message us today.