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Sheltering Arms Blog

Is It Safe to Exercise With Osteoarthritis?

Posted on: May 9, 2019 by Clinicians Editor

By: Nick Hopson, PT, DPT, Cert. DN

Sometimes called degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the protective layer of cartilage between the joints breaks down causing increased friction between the joints and inflammation. This inflammation leads to pain, swelling, popping or cracking, stiffness, and loss of joint movement.

OA is caused by age, overuse, previous injuries, occupation, weight and genetics. It can occur almost anywhere in the body, but the most common areas are the knees, hips, neck, back, hands and feet. Osteoarthritis is not reversible, but there are several things you can do to decrease pain and prevent the joints from further degrading.

Most people with osteoarthritis think that exercising will increase their pain, in turn making their OA worse, but research shows just the opposite. Exercise is one of the safest and most effective treatments for OA if performed properly and in moderation. Here are three types of exercise to treat OA:

  1. Strengthening exercises: Weakened muscles usually accompany OA as people become less active when they hurt. Along with helping regain functional strength such as going up and down stairs, strengthening exercises decrease friction in the joints, in turn decreasing pain. The stronger the muscles are surrounding the joint, the less stress is placed on the joint.
  2. Stretching: Another classic symptom of OA is muscle tightness and joint stiffness which can limit range of motion (ROM). Decreased ROM can make normal tasks such as getting dressed, picking up an object off the floor, or even getting in and out of the car more difficult than it should be. Stretching exercises and activity modification are useful tools to help restore normal motion.
  3. Aerobic activity: It is recommended to engage in 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least five days a week. Not only is this good for your cardiovascular system, but increased activity can lead to weight loss. For each pound that a person is overweight, an extra three to six pounds of stress is placed on the joint.

Sheltering Arms can help reduce the pain associated with your osteoarthritis.Our physical and occupational therapists build a customized plan to addresses your specific needs and improve your quality of life. To learn more about how physical rehabilitation can help arthritis, click the button below or call (804) 764-1000 to schedule an evaluation with a Sheltering Arms therapist.