Today, the 12th of October marks World Arthritis Day. Arthritis is an umbrella term for medical conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, in particular the joints. Arthritis related conditions cause inflammation, joint pain, stiffness and damage to the cartilage. As a result, individuals with Arthritis can experience joint deformity, instability and weakness, making activities of daily living difficult. Arthritis is a major cause of disability in Australia with around 3.8 million Australian’s suffering from a form of Arthritis. There is currently no cure and it affects people of all ages. The most common types of Arthritis include Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Juvenile Arthritis, Gout, Ankylosing Spondylitis and Lupus. While there is currently no cure, Arthritis can be well managed.
Exercise is recommended as part of the management plan for individuals with Arthritis. Certain types of exercises can help improve or maintain the strength of your bones and reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Appropriate exercises can also improve muscle strength and size and therefore provide more support to the joints, increase your ability to do daily tasks, help you maintain a healthy weight which will keep the pressure on the joints to a minimum, decrease pain and muscle tension, and reduce levels of fatigue. Research has shown that appropriate exercises do not cause joint damage or worsen symptoms. Recommended exercises include water exercise which can allow you to move more freely as the buoyance of the water takes pressure off the joints, strength training to increase muscle strength and improve your ability to do day to day tasks, and flexibility exercises to lengthen tight muscles and improve joint range of movement. There are some exercises that are not recommended for individuals with Arthritis including running and jumping activities.
During a flare it is recommended you rest the affected joints until the symptoms have subsided, however gently moving the affected joint through its full range of movement a few times per day may help in preventing stiffness. It’s important to seek the guidance of an Allied Health Practitioner such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to ensure the exercise program is tailored to your individual needs, and is safe for you. If you would like to include exercise as part of your treatment for Arthritis, speak with your GP about a possible referral to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for an assessment and management plan.
Written By Emma Sansalone (Accredited Exercise Physiologist)
Arthritis Australia, General Management. (2016). Physical Activity. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from http://www.arthritisaustralia.com.au/index.php/arthritis-information/information-sheets.html#general management
Exercise and Sports Science Australia, Exercise Right. (2016). Arthritis and Exercise. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from http://exerciseright.com.au/arthritis/