Rheumatic disease is the umbrella term for various disorders that impact the joints and their surrounding tissues, including arthritis. The most common form of arthritis is degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis); other frequently diagnosed joint conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and fibromyalgia.
In the United States, approximately 1 in 4 adults — or over 58 million Americans — has been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. For nearly 1 in 3 people with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, severe joint pain is a mobility-restricting, routine-disrupting part of everyday life.
At Interventional Sports and Pain Management Associates in Humble and Baytown, Texas, board-certified interventional pain specialist Dr. Okezie N. Okezie helps men and women from the greater Houston area ease arthritis pain, improve joint function, and restore mobility.
Here, Dr. Okezie explains why exercise is a key component of every successful arthritis management plan.
Although arthritis symptoms can vary in type, nature, and severity — both among individuals and from day to day — having stiff, achy joints is a primary complaint for most people. For some, severe arthritis pain is limited to just one or two joints; for others, the problem is more widespread.
When arthritis-related joint pain isn’t properly managed from the outset, it can set the stage for increasingly restricted mobility that makes it difficult to manage routine tasks. If it’s allowed to progress unchecked, it can eventually lead to an arthritis-related limitational disability.
It may be tempting — and to a certain degree, instinctive — to want to protect stiff, painful arthritic joints and avoid activities that might intensify your discomfort. But leading an inactive, sedentary lifestyle is one of the worst things you can do when you have arthritis.
Being inactive depletes your energy and robs you of your existing strength and flexibility, all of which further undermines your mobility. It’s no coincidence that inactive arthritic joints are far more likely to become increasingly stiff or even frozen.
Keeping your body physically active, on the other hand, promotes increased joint lubrication and eases inflammation — two key body mechanisms that take the edge off chronic arthritis pain and stiffness, naturally.
A fitness plan that’s tailored to your specific needs goes even further, helping to strengthen and tone the muscles and connective tissues that surround and support your joints. And if you’re overweight, regular exercise can help you shed excess pounds and reduce stress on all your joints — especially your hips, knees, and ankles.
Every arthritis exercise plan has three main goals — long-lasting pain relief, optimal joint function, and continued mobility — that it aims to achieve through four areas of fitness:
Flexibility training, or stretching, keeps the muscles around your joints balanced. Whether you take gentle yoga classes or develop your own stretching routine, your joint mobility and range of motion will improve with regular flexibility sessions.
Resistance training strengthens and tones your muscles to keep your joints stable. You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get stronger, either; bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, pushups, planks, and bridges can be tailored to your fitness level and help you strengthen every major muscle group in your body.
Cardiovascular training involves low-impact aerobic activities that get your heart rate up for a sustained period. Besides making your heart stronger and increasing your level of endurance, engaging in daily aerobic exercise workouts — like walking, cycling, or swimming — promotes optimal blood flow to your joints.
Balance exercises help you strengthen the stabilizing muscles around your weight-bearing joints; it also helps you improve body awareness (proprioception), coordination, posture, and reaction time. Besides giving you better joint stability, balance training helps prevent falls.
Participating in a low-impact exercise program is the best way to support arthritic joints as you build muscle, improve flexibility, and increase your endurance. The joint-saving workouts that Dr. Okezie recommends most often are:
If you’re ready to incorporate a fully tailored, joint-saving workout program into your arthritis management plan, Interventional Sports and Pain Management Associates can help. Call your nearest office in Humble or Baytown, Texas today, or click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Okezie anytime.