Arthritis can be a real pain in the you know what [insert body part here].
Arthritis, a pathology characterized by pain, swelling, and stiffness within the joint currently affects 25%, or 54 million Americans with the highest prevalence being in individuals greater than 65.1 The most commonly known types are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.
While stiffness, swelling, and pain can be manageable at times, what typically makes the matter worse is the progressive weakness and limited range of motion that accompanies the pain. Slowly but surely, year after year these relentless symptoms begin limiting your daily activities. You stand less. You walk less. You stop carrying and gripping things. You begin to notice you’re favoring the other limb. It’s not before long that your fun leisurely activities become less interesting, the household chores seem impossible and you begin to favor any extra time remaining sedentary. It’s no wonder why depression slowly creeps in and quality of life takes a serious hit.
Any of this sound familiar? …Unfortunately, odds say that it probably affects someone you know.
While there is no definitive CURE for arthritis, there are several known TREATMENTS to reduce the effects of the symptoms prior to undergoing a total joint replacement. These include:
1. Low-Impact Aerobic physical activity
While aerobic activities help provide cardiovascular benefits, performing them in a low-impact environment helps provide nourishment to the structures within the joint. Research has shown that physical activity can reduce pain and improve physical function by about 40 percent.2 The focus of these exercises should be maintaining an elevated heart rate while performing whole body strengthening activities.
Examples include: cycling, walking, swimming, and circuit training.
*if you are unsure of the appropriate heart rate to maintain while performing low-aerobic activities, contact your physician or trusted physical therapist.
2. Aquatic therapy
Aside from a structured swimming program, there are many other benefits to an aquatic therapy routine. The buoyancy of the water allows for joint distraction reducing joint compression forces and relieving arthritic symptoms. By simply submerging the involved joint for a period of time, you may feel immediate [and potentially lasting] benefits. Water aerobics are also a great place to perform a strengthening routine in a pain-free environment.
3. Weight Management
There’s no easy way around it. Weight loss is TOUGH!. It’s hard enough maintaining the weight as we get older let alone losing more! But a little bit of weight can add up more than you think. A study in 2005 found that each pound of weight lost will result in a 4‐fold reduction in the load exerted on the knee per step during daily activities.3 For example, if you lose 10 pounds, its the equivalent of 40 fewer pounds per step that your knees need to absorb. Less pressure on the joint surfaces can result in fewer symptoms. So with a little bit of discipline and a plan, you can shed that weight in no time!
Injecting an anti-inflammatory or steroid-based solution directly within the joint can have an immediate effect on the symptoms. Acting directly at the site of involvement, these medications have been shown to be successful at delaying a joint replacement surgery. Mostly used as a short-term measure, there has not been substantiating evidence supporting benefits of intra-articular injections in the long term. For further information regarding the risks and benefits of injection, topical, or oral medications, please consult your physician.
You don’t have to go through one bout of arthritis after another by yourself! Seek out your local physical therapist for advice or recommendations regarding the best way to keep you strong and active.
We are moving specialists, after all!