Exercise and Osteoarthritis
It is estimated that 8.75 million people in the UK have seen a doctor about osteoarthritis symptoms.
Joint pain, swelling and stiffness with a potential reduction in your normal functional ability are all common reported symptoms.
Osteoarthritis is mostly reported in the knees, hands, hips and back but it can be found in any of your joints, resulting in a wide array of pain and disability levels.
Although some surgical procedures for Osteoarthritis have been shown to be clinically effective, they are not without their risks and are not effective for everyone.
Early arthritis is best treated through educating patients regarding how to optimally self- manage their condition, weight loss advice where needed, and……. Exercise!
If arthritis is a reduced ability to function through a joint due to pain and stiffness.
You may be thinking. ‘’Surely exercising through that joint is a bad idea.’’
The first thing to note is that every person is different.
A Physiotherapist will assess a patient’s pain levels, joint function, but most importantly the impact it is having on their lifestyle.
Although Osteoarthritis may seem like a joint specific problem, we need to look at the person holistically.
Are you aerobically fit?
Are you overweight?
Do you smoke?
Do you have any other medical issues?
Are your muscles strong above and below the joint in question?
Research has shown us that these factors increase your functional disability, pain levels, and future risk of surgery when you have Osteoarthritis.
Being overweight will have an exponential impact on the stress being placed through your weight bearing joints. Therefore some patients simply have to return to their optimal weight and their symptoms will improve dramatically.
Likewise having increased strength and stability around the Osteoarthritic joint helps to control the stresses being placed through it. This can have a huge impact on the pain you may feel when walking or climbing the stairs.
In fact, one study has shown that 8 weeks of supervised strength training alongside education resulted in over 50% of the group either stopping taking medications or reducing to a lower risk version (Thorlund et al., 2020).
In addition it has been shown that 6 weeks of a weekly exercise bike class for 30 minutes improved pain levels, strength and the quality of life for the participants (Wainwright et al., 2020). When cycling, you will experience a reduced weight bearing requirement as partial load is placed through your saddle. You may find you can cycle far more comfortably that you can walk.
But What about Pain?
Some discomfort while you exercise is fine.
In clinic I like to use the numerical pain scale allowing you to work up to 3-4/10 on your own perception of discomfort. This generally means you can push yourself without causing a flair up the next day.
If you are finding that the pain is too high when you are performing the chosen exercise. Try to modify the range of motion, the speed you perform it or decrease the load.
Clicking is fine.
Although disconcerting. Hearing and feeling some clicks when you move your joints is quite common for arthritis.
It is also quite normal for non-arthritic joints.
So, try to pay less attention to the clicks and more focus on the quality of your movement (Loud music can help).
Exercising with Osteoarthritis is an absolute must !
Improving your strength, weight and aerobic health has all been shown to improve the symptoms of Osteoarthritis. Specifically in your knees and hips.
This should always be a progressive process as with any exercise programme. Doing too much too early may result in a flair up.
I appreciate that this may feel like a daunting step if you are in pain. At Injury Armour we have the expertise and equipment that can make this step less challenging. In addition we can always liaise with your GP to ensure your pain is under the best control while we start your exercise journey.
As always, please visit a medical professional if you are unsure about your diagnosis.
At Injury Armour Physiotherapy in Taunton we are highly experienced with helping people who have Osteoarthritic joints.
So feel free to get in touch
For now give this mini circuit a try.
Perform the whole circuit 4 x with 30-45 seconds rest between exercises
Aim to perform a circuit similar to this 2-3 x per week
1/ 2.00 cycling
2/ Counterbalance sit to stand
3/ Heel raises
4/ Banded glute bridge
5/ Straight leg raise
hold for 3 seconds
12 reps each side
Thanks for reading
Physiotherapist @ Injury Armour
Thorlund, J.B., Roos, E.M., Goro, P., Ljungcrantz, E.G., Gronne, D.T. and Skou, S.T., 2020. Patients use fewer analgesics following supervised exercise therapy and patient education: an observational study of 16499 patients with knee or hip osteoarthritis. British journal of sports medicine.
Wainwright, T.W., Burgess, L.C., Immins, T., Cowan, N. and Middleton, R.G., 2020. A cycling and education intervention for the treatment of hip osteoarthritis: A quality improvement replication programme. Sage Open Medicine, 8, p. 9.