The month of May is Arthritis Awareness Month. There are currently over 50 million adults in the US living with some form of arthritis. The CDC has predicted that by the year 2030, that number will grow to approximately 67 million adults! Arthritis is also a leading cause of further chronic illnesses (ie. obesity, heart disease) and other activity limitations. With that said, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about this degenerative joint disease. In this post, I will do a brief overview of what is arthritis, what areas of the body are commonly affected, the benefits of movement in joint pain management along with some tips to consider when exercising with arthritis. A joint is an area of the body where two bones meet. Joints are made up of various connective tissues (cartilage- covers the surface of a bone, ligaments- connects one bone to another bone, tendons- connects a bone to a muscle); bursa (that helps to provide cushion against friction at a joint); and synovial fluid (a lubricating fluid that also reduces friction at a joint) to help our bodies move with ease. Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint caused by the loss of articular cartilage (which helps the bones to move without friction) that occurs over time. When the articular cartilage is no longer there, there is no protection against bone on bone interactions. These interactions are therefore, very painful. Because there is no blood in the cartilage, there is now way for it to heal. In other words, once the cartilage is gone, it is unable to come back. The most common symptoms of arthritis include stiffness, limited range/lack of motion and atrophy (the reduction of muscle size due to inactivity/immobilization). There are several joints that are more often affected such as the knee, hip, lumbar spine (lower back) and the wrist. It is common that individuals with arthritis tend to decrease mobility. However, movement and exercise is a great way to manage joint pain as it helps to preserve muscle tissue, improve/increase your range of motion and maintain a healthy body weight. If you are dealing with arthritis and are looking a new exercise plan, here are a few tips/ideas to consider:
– Avoid participating in vigorous/high-intensity exercise programs (especially during flare ups). It is best to do low-to-moderate levels of intensities or gentle exercises that target range of motion in a particular body part. – Make sure you do an extended warm-up (5-10 minutes) to ensure the joints are lubricated before moving to the “meat” of the class. – Know that a small amount of joint pain/discomfort is normal. However, please stop exercise if the pain is too serve or persists for more than two hours after exercise.
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