By Brandon Pollock PhD, ACSM-EP-C
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent type of arthritis, affecting approximately 15% of the total population. Osteoarthritis is a joint disease resulting from the breakdown of protective cartilage and underlying bone. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, it usually affects the joints in your hands, knees, hips, and spine. Symptomatic knee OA occurs in 10% men and 13% in women aged 60 years or older. Due to its partiality for lower extremity joints, osteoarthritis is the leading cause of lower extremity disability amongst older adults.
There is no certain cause of osteoarthritis, although evidence suggests it is largely genetically determined. Other risk factors include the previous injury to the joint, age, obesity, and gender. Treatment for osteoarthritis is focused around pain relief, improving range of motion, increasing strength, normalizing gait, decreasing joint inflammation and lessening the joint damage.
Exercise, the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain
Exercise is thought to be the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement for people with osteoarthritis. Exercise for anyone with osteoarthritis should include aerobic, strength, and flexibility activities.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends anyone with osteoarthritis to perform aerobic exercise three to five days per week. The intensity of the exercise should be about 30-60 percent of your VO2 max (max effort). If you are new to exercise, start slowly and begin with just five to ten minutes. Progressively increase your duration and try to work your way up to a continuous 30 minutes.
Walking, swimming, cycling, rowing, and water aerobics are all excellent types of aerobic activities for individuals with osteoarthritis. Non-weight bearing activities such as cycling and swimming are especially beneficial if joint pain is prevalent. At any time, aerobic performance may be hindered by pain and swelling associated with osteoarthritis, so take breaks as necessary.
Loss of muscle strength is particularly problematic for individuals with osteoarthritis. Strength training should focus on strengthening the muscles around arthritic joints. Strength training should be performed three to five days per week, with light to moderate resistance (40-60 percent max). Weight machines should be used over free weights.
Flexibility exercise, Try yoga
Flexibility exercises are one of the most important for increasing pain-free range of motion and decreasing stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. Yoga is an excellent and safe way to keep active, increase strength, improve flexibility, and reduce overall stress for anyone with osteoarthritis.
More recent studies suggest yoga even boosts your immune system and reduces your chances of getting a migraine! Tai chi and simple static stretching can always be used to improve range of motion and loosen joint stiffness.
For individuals with osteoarthritis, in addition to exercise, other lifestyle changes such as proper nutrition and adequate rest are very important. There is no strong evidence suggesting that exercise is associated with an increased rate of development of osteoarthritis. So until next time, keep on exercising.
*For more examples of other variations/exercises look under Multimedia-VDF Exercise Tips
**Consult with a physician and/or medical healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen
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