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What kind of exercises are good for osteoarthritis?

27th September 2018

Arthritis is a common problem for people across the UK and osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of it. It is believed that there are around 200 different musculoskeletal conditions and the term arthritis is one that is used by doctors and medical professionals to describe inflammation within the joint.

Osteoarthritis can really hinder the mobility of people and the condition means many need to purchase stair lifts for their homes to be able to stay independent.

This guide looks at what osteoarthritis is and, as exercise for arthritis is beneficial, the different workouts that will help ease the pain and make daily living easier.

What is osteoarthritis?

Before delving into the different exercises osteoarthritis sufferers should look to do, it is important to know what it is.

Philip Conaghan, Professor of Musculoskeletal Medicine at the University of Leeds and spokesperson for Versus Arthritis (the result of a merger between Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care) explains how the condition can make everyday tasks difficult.

“Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis affecting at least 8 million people in the UK. The condition can affect any joint in your body causing them to become damaged, stop moving freely and become painful. This can make everyday tasks such as bending down to tie your shoelaces or getting out of bed extremely painful and difficult to do. Symptoms may vary depending on what you’ve been doing in the previous few days, or how often you use the joints – for example, the thumb base may take more load than small finger joints.”

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis and what exercises will help manage the pain?

Pain is a major symptom of osteoarthritis and the below infographic looks at some of the most common signs of osteoarthritis as well as the exercises you should do to help manage the pain.

Exercises to try to help with Osteoarthritis

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Symptoms of osteoarthritis

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Grating sensation
  • Bone spurs
  • Loss of muscle bulk

What advice do the experts give to someone living with osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis can be debilitating, which is why people buy stairlifts to get around their home and use mobility aids when out and about. However, there are lots of tips osteoarthritis sufferers can follow.

Building up strength

As you will see from the above infographic, there are several exercises you can do to help with osteoarthritis and Philip Conaghan, a spokesperson for Versus Arthritis agrees that this is important to help build up your strength.

“There are definitely some effective ways to manage the pain and improve your movement.  Building up strength is key; if you can’t undo a jar or get out of a chair or car easily, you need appropriate strengthening exercises. This will unload joints and reduce your pain significantly. It’s easy to lose muscle if you work in a sedentary job, have stopped working, or are becoming more housebound. But everyone can build muscle simply – walking laps in a pool, for example, is great for lower limb and back problems. When you are strong you can focus on starting to walk (more or faster), swim or join the gym. Even a small amount – little and often - can help.”

Managing your weight is also important as this will decrease strain on the joints and thus help those with osteoarthritis.

Consider taking medication

Some medications can also help people manage the pain of osteoarthritis and this is a potential avenue you can go down.

Creaky Joints, which was founded by arthritis patient Seth Ginsberg and social entrepreneur Louis Tharp in 1999 and is now part of the Global Healthy Living Foundation, spoke about some of the best medications available around the world.

“Medications for osteoarthritis include NSAIDs, acetaminophen, duloxetine, glucocorticoids (steroid injections), intra-articular hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid injections), and tramadol.”

Philip Conaghan, adds, “Topical anti-inflammatory creams (containing diclofenac or ibuprofen) can help pain and have few side effects, and over the counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can help to relieve pain, though it is good to discuss with your GP if you are using these regularly.”

Consult a physiotherapist

Physiotherapy can help people with osteoarthritis, especially those in the early stages of it. Physiotherapy helps you to resume or maintain an active and independent life and can assess movement and show you how to protect your joints.

Specialist physiotherapists are trained in helping to diagnose and treat joint and muscle problems. As well as offering advice, physiotherapists will set goals to keep you as active as possible.

Below are some physiotherapists that can help with osteoarthritis:

  • Six Physio – London-based physiotherapists that offer physio, massage, machine-based Pilates and a range of specialist services.
  • Go Physio – The team have years of experience in resolving thousands of people’s injuries and their aim is to deliver long-term, physical durability.
  • Physio Comes to You – Formed in 2007 in London by Rebecca Aldridge, Physio Comes to You specialises in treating people at home and can use clinical equipment which normally is only available at a physiotherapy centre.

Speak to health professionals

To find out about all the different treatments that are on offer, you should speak to your local GP as they will be able to discuss your osteoarthritis and explain what they think will be the best treatment for you.

Philip Conaghan explains how a GP can help people with osteoarthritis, “It’s important to find the treatment and self-management options which work for you, so speak to your GP about pain-management options available to you, alternatively you can call the Versus Arthritis helpline free on 0800 5200 520.”

The best exercises for osteoarthritis

There are a number of exercises that can help relieve some of the pain that osteoarthritis brings and here’s a round-up of the workouts you should consider:

  • Seated Hip Abduction
  • Water Walking
  • Knee extensions
  • Leg lifts lying down
  • Chin Tuck
  • Head tilt
  • Pendulum exercise
  • Shoulder stretch

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.