Only last week the NHS announced new guidelines for people suffering with arthritis - lose weight and exercise.
The advice comes after new evidence has suggested that the use of strong painkillers, usually prescribed to treat arthritic pain, has little or no benefit when it comes to quality of life and pain levels.
Time to Start Moving
Although it may seem counterintuitive to move more when your joints hurt, studies have shown that exercise really does reduce arthritis-related pain, fatigue, and stiffness.
Doctors have been encouraged to prescribe more movement as a treatment for patients with arthritis, and many are consciously avoiding using the term ‘exercise’ as for many people this can be off-putting.
Even the healthiest people can find it hard to stick with an exercise regimen, but gently introducing the practice of regular, sustained movement in everyday life is more achievable and has equally beneficial effects.
Why Movement Works
If you’re introducing a new movement or exercise programme to your routine it may initially make the pain worse. While this might seem to go against your natural instincts to do whatever it takes to avoid pain and stiffness, this will settle down as your body adjusts. The benefits will start to kick in before you know it.
If you’re finding it difficult to commit to extra movement each day, remember what the end goal is. Your new efforts will work to bring you:
- Improved range of motion, mobility and flexibility - to increase your range of motion, move a joint as far as it can go and then try to push a little farther. These exercises can be done any time, even when your joints are painful or swollen, as long as you do them gently.
- Stronger muscles - you can use your own body weight as resistance to build muscle. For example, this simple exercise can help ease the strain on your knees by strengthening your thigh muscles: Sit in a chair. Now lean forward and stand up by using only your thigh muscles (use your arms for balance only). Stand a moment, then sit back down, using only your thigh muscles.
- Better endurance and aerobic capacity- movement and exercises like walking, swimming, and bicycling are easy ways to strengthen your heart and lungs and increase your endurance and overall health. Make sure the activities don’t jar your joints or have a high impact (like jogging or jumping). If you're having a flare-up of symptoms, wait until it subsides before doing endurance exercises or try some of the gentle exercises in 1 & 2.
- Better balance - maintaining your balance is very important as we age and it’s simple to work on it in everyday life. Stand with your weight on both feet. Then try lifting one foot while you balance on the other foot for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Over time, work your way up to 30 seconds on each foot. Yoga and tai chi are also good for balance.
If you’re struggling to manage your arthritic flare ups then do take a look at our previous blog on painkiller-free treatments to try at home.
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