By: Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
Osteoarthritis accounts for more trouble with climbing stairs and walking than any other disease, and is the most common reason for total hip and knee replacement surgeries. This article will discuss the role of exercise in the management of osteoarthritis.
Exercise increases our functional capacity to withstand occupational, recreational, and everyday stresses to our body more efficiently, thereby minimizing the risk of joint injury and subsequent disability. Natural chemicals called endorphins have anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties and are released by the body during exercise. Joint movement also transports nutrients and waste products to and from cartilage. For every extra pound of weight that someone carries, they put an extra three to five pounds of stress on a weight bearing joint. Regular exercise can allow for an individual to keep their weight down, and their muscles and joints flexible and strong.
The individual components of exercise can exert specific positive benefits in the body. Aerobic or Endurance exercise improves the body’s capacity to deliver oxygen to working muscles and organs. Swimming, cycling, jogging, water aerobics, and power walking are a few examples of this type of exercise. It is recommended that an individual engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of endurance exercise at least three times per week. This type of exercise will also burn calories and help maintain healthy body weight.
Resistance or Strengthening exercise helps a muscle’s ability to contract and do work. This type of exercise can help maintain bone density and strengthen muscles to support our joints. It will also boost metabolism and assist in maintaining a healthy body weight. Examples of this type of exercise include weight machines in a fitness facility, dumbbells, or resistance tubing.
Flexibility exercises help maintain a joint’s complete movement or range of motion. Stretching is the most familiar form of this type of exercise but it can also include activities such as Tai Chi, Pilates, and Yoga. Holding a sustained stretch for 15-30 seconds can result in modest flexibility gains. This type of exercise becomes especially important when preparing for any endurance or strengthening activity to help ready the body and minimize the risk of injury. Where appropriate, agility and proprioceptive/balance exercise may also be added.
Osteoarthritis can be successfully managed with active exercise strategies. Exercise can encompass a wide range of activities. Therefore choose activities that are safe and enjoyable. This will make it more likely for you to stay consistent with those activities. There may be some initial discomfort when beginning an exercise program. This may be your body’s normal response when starting a new activity and should not last more than one to two weeks. Start slowly and progress gradually. If discomfort persists beyond this point, consult with a Regulated Health Professional to make sure the exercise you are performing is appropriate and being done correctly. For more information, visit www.nhwc.ca.
This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only. It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.