Why is exercise important for arthritis patients?

February 25, 2015

Topic: physical therapy

Researchers found that arthritis patients may not be using the suggested nonsurgical recommendations .

Most orthopaedic physicians will advise patients to continually exercise if they are dealing with some form of arthritis. Yet people may not be taking their advice, according to one study.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne recently asked patients with knee or hip osteoarthritis about their nonsurgical treatment options for arthritis. They found that patients were ignoring nonsurgical options altogether.

"Losing 1 pound of weight can take 4 pounds of pressure off hips or knees."

Osteoarthritis treatment options
There are a few different treatment choices that patients with osteoarthritis have, the Arthritis Foundation noted. Normally, doctors will prescribe people anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. They may also suggest that patients try occupational or physical therapy to help improve mobility and joint function. If the osteoarthritis is severe, patients may be eligible for a total joint replacement of the hip or knee. However, this is only if the cartilage around the joint is completely worn down and the bones are rubbing one another, beginning to erode and causing significant pain. Physicians will also encourage patients to stay active and manage their weight to avoid making symptoms worse. The AF noted that losing 1 pound of weight can take 4 pounds of pressure off hips or knees. So, activity such as stretching and strengthening exercises are always suggested.

Yet the results from the University of Melbourne study revealed that patients have chosen to ignore these suggestions. After receiving questionnaires from 591 participants, the findings indicated that only 50 percent of people were making an effort to lose or manage their weight. Worse yet, only 26 percent of patients were still performing strengthening exercises regularly and 23 percent of people were stretching consistently, where the rest of the group had given up entirely on these methods. The researchers were concerned by these results, stating that these exercises are usually the most strongly recommended by clinicians. The findings were published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. 

Andrews Institute can help alleviate arthritis symptoms with physical therapy.Andrews Institute can help alleviate arthritis symptoms with physical therapy.

The benefits of exercise for those with arthritis
A significant amount of research has proven the benefits of exercise for arthritis patients. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that physical activity can help patients with any kind of arthritis, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. Physical activity can help alleviate a person's pain, reduce joint stiffness and bone loss, strengthen the muscles around the arthritic joints, increase mobility, improve a person's mood, and increase his or her overall quality of life. Aside from alleviating the symptoms of arthritis, regular exercise can also help benefit cardiovascular health and lower people's risk for diabetes, obesity and heart disease. 

Recommended activities
People with arthritis should follow the exercise recommendations for adults or seniors depending on their age and condition. The CDC suggests that the average adult with arthritis should participate in two hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. Common exercises include swimming, swift walking, cycling and dancing. Adults should also participate in muscle strengthening exercises twice a week, including weight training and using resistance bands, and balance exercises three days a week, such as walking backwards, to prevent fall injuries. 

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