It’s a common misconception that osteoarthritis means you can’t exercise. Staying active is vital for heart health, but too often knee and hip pain leads to less activity and exercise from pain. Stretching, strengthening surrounding muscles, focusing on anti-inflammatory foods and staying active can ease osteoarthritis pain.
Speak with your doctor before starting any form of exercise, especially if you have been sedentary. You may want to ask for a consult to a physical therapist to learn proper technique and monitor your progress.
Changes in the joints that occur with osteoarthritis include cartilage wear and tear and loss of synovial fluid that causes bone destruction, pain and inflammation.
Common areas affected are the neck, back, hips and knees. Osteoarthritis is associated with aging and damage from high impact activities and exercises.
Strengthening is easy
It’s important to keep the muscles around the joint strong to reduce stress on the knee, hip or other painful area. Muscle wasting, or atrophy, can only make osteoarthritis symptoms worse.
Lie on your back and squeeze the knee, holding for 2 to 3 seconds. The exercises don’t put any weight on the joint.
You can also perform straight leg raises. Lay on your back and raise the legs straight up, being careful not to bend at the knee. Only go as far as is comfortable.
The same exercise can be done lying on your side and raising the leg straight up. Leg raises strengthen the hip and back.
Exercising for osteoarthritis pain can also be performed in a pool.
Many Medicare Advantage plans offer free gym memberships. Find out if there a local gym with a year round pool in your area to gain arthritis pain relief and cardiovascular benefits from exercise.
If you suffer from knee osteoarthritis, focus on exercising your upper body with weights or resistance bands.
Gentle stretching keeps joints limber
Any form of arthritis can make joints stiff, putting you are risk for falls and impaired mobility needed to perform daily activities.
Yoga and Pilates can be beneficial because they are non-weight bearing exercises.
To stretch the hips, lie on your back with knees bent. Cross you right or left foot over your leg. Reach your hand through the legs and gently pull toward the chest.
If your balance is good, you can perform the same sort of exercise while standing. If needed, hold on to the wall. Flex your good knee slightly, then place the opposing, or affected leg on the thigh. Gently bend your standing knee until you feel the stretch in the hip.
You can continue only if the stretches feel good and don’t cause more pain. Again, consult your physician if you have any questions or if activity is too painful.
If you are overweight or obese, it’s important to lose weight. Too much weight only makes osteoarthritis of the hips and knees worse. Start with trying to increase your activity and speak with your doctor about a weight loss plan.
Eating a handful of tart cherries is shown in studies to reduce inflammation and help control arthritis pain. You can also drink tart cherry juice concentrate that can help facilitate sleep.
Eat fish two to three times a week. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish promote cardiovascular health and also have anti-inflammatory properties to help control pain.
Cook with extra virgin olive oil, spice with turmeric and drink a little ginger tea – all can help inflammation and pain and are recommended by Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN and author of “Joy Bauer’s Food Cures”.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that affected approximately 27 million adults in 2005, according to the CDC.
Pain associated with osteoarthritis and inactivity can lead to a downward spiral in health and well-being, including weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and poor quality of life.
If you have osteoarthritis, it’s more important than ever to stretch, exercise, lose weight if needed and focus on dietary intake of anti-inflammatory foods and spices that naturally help relieve pain.
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