Pain is one of the more prominent symptoms of arthritis, but need not prevent people from being physically active. There are many benefits to regular activity and exercise, including improving muscle strength and endurance, reducing pain, improving joint mobility and improving the health of joints and the strength of bones. Regular activity and exercise also help to improve sleep, balance, self-confidence, and the ability to manage stress. A physiotherapist can design, modify and monitor your exercise routine to address your specific needs.
It is important to start slowly and pace yourself with arthritis; more is not always better. If you are just starting to become active, then it is important to consult with your healthcare provider and make sure you are ready to start being active especially if you have joint deformity, significant pain and weakness, or have had recent joint surgeries. Your provider will also help you to distinguish the difference between having joint pain and having muscle pain.
You can start improving your activity level in very simple ways with the decisions you make on a daily basis. Even simple changes in habits make a difference, like choosing your parking spot further away from the entrance, getting off one stop early on public transit, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, or choosing to walk when going short distances, rather than driving. All of these simple choices increase your overall activity and fitness level.
When beginning to exercise, make sure you have appropriate footwear and clothing that is both supportive and comfortable. Remember to give yourself frequent rest breaks as you start increasing activity, as many types of arthritis cause fatigue. And try to plan your exercise and activity times at the times you find your arthritis medications are most effective in reducing your pain.
Lori Youden is a physiotherapist and clinic owner at PhysioLink Porters Lake.