Arthritis Pain and Exercise Programs

Millions of Americans have one form or another of the over one hundred different varieties of arthritis. Arthritis and exercise would not seem to be suitable partners, but doctors say that this is not the case at all. As a matter of fact, arthritis and exercise should go hand in hand. The benefits of exercising if you have arthritis are far reaching and can ease the pain of this often crippling disease.

The word arthritis literally means joint inflammation; the many forms of arthritis can cause joint stiffness, pain and affect muscles, tendons, bones and even internal organs. Those that suffer from arthritis often feel that exercise will further harm them, but studies have shown that the opposite is true. A regular exercise regimen can increase flexibility, help reduce weight, strengthen muscles and improve cardiac fitness. Obviously, exercise alone cannot conquer the pain of arthritis, but it can contribute to feeling better with the disease.

The type of exercise you undertake will depend on the type of arthritis you have and where it is most prominent in your body. Your physician can map out a plan for your exercise program with the help of a physical therapist. There will be some exercises that can do more harm than good to specific joints, and your doctor will know what to recommend based on your particular needs.

There is a trio of exercise categories for people with arthritis. The first is range of motion exercise, such as stretching, that maintains normal joint movement and alleviates stiffness. Range of motion exercises should be done at least every other day and can be done every day. Strengthening exercises, or weight training, helps to increase muscle strength, which is important because strong muscle supports and protects those joints affected with the disease. Done with free weights, elastic bands, isometrics or exercise machines, this form of exercise should be performed every other day. It is imperative to do these exercises correctly to avoid muscle tears and more joint swelling. Thirdly, there is aerobic exercise, also called endurance exercise. Examples would be bicycling, walking, or swimming. Weight reduction, as well as cardiovascular fitness, is the main perk of this work out regimen. Twenty to thirty minutes, two or three times a week, is recommended.
To begin your exercise program if you have arthritis, contact your doctor and discuss it with them. He may involve a personal trainer or physical therapist. Warming up properly is crucial to avoid worsening your condition. Some people choose to use heat on their affected areas before exercising and cold packs afterward. You do not want to overdo it; progress at a slow pace until you feel comfortable with your program. Small amounts of weights are best for the strengthening program until you can safely handle more. Be sure to stop if the pain in your joints become increased and ask your doctor what you should try next. Choose the type of aerobic that you enjoy the most and stick with it. You will find that exercise and arthritis are not the strange bedfellows you thought they were!

A number of activities can help in your fight against the stiffness and pain of arthritis. Golf is a sport that can improve your range of motion, balance and coordination. It benefits the upper back, hips and spine. If arthritis has taken hold in your hands, you can purchase clubs with special grips. Yoga can help to tone your muscles and loosen your joints. Practiced by all age groups, it is growing wildly in popularity. Yoga lessens stress and tension and increases confidence; it has proven to be a very powerful tool to fight arthritis.

Water exercise is also becoming all the rage. It is a gentle way to exercise joints and muscles, as the support of the water in a pool or hot tub encourages free movement. Keep in mind that you could need help with getting in and out of the water. Walking is possibly the best endurance exercise for arthritis. It increase lung capacity, stamina, and makes your heart stronger. Walking also reinforces the muscles and tissues around the joints, supporting them better. Whatever exercise you decide upon, always make sure to recognize that fatigue, dizziness, continuing pain, increased weakness and decreased range of motion are signs that you could be taking on to much at once. If you find an appropriate exercise regimen, you may be able to make it a lifetime habit that will lessen the grip that arthritis has on you.

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