Exercise Lessens the Pain Associated with Arthritis

We have all no doubt heard a joke at some time or another that tells the story of someone seeking help from their doctor. They complain to the MD that it hurts when they jump up and down. The doctor replies, “then don’t jump up and down”. The story has relevance in so far as we typically avoid activity that aggravates a pain we already have. Such is the case with arthritis. Those with the inflammatory condition will avoid exercise in order to lessen the pain that they are already in. However exercise is what arthritis sufferers should be getting more of in order to help alleviate the pain.

Going for a walk each day can ease the pain associated with arthritis. A study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that across the U.S., very few individuals with arthritis were getting the required level of exercise. More than half failed to walk at all for exercise, and  of those who did, most failed to do so for more that 90 minutes per week. The Southern states of Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi & Louisiana had the lowest number of regular walkers. These states incidentally also have the highest rates of obesity, heart attack and stroke. The findings of this study were published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 3 2013 as part of the Centers’ contribution to Arthritis Awareness Month.

While walking is good exercise for those with arthritis, is is by no means the only or best form of it that should be pursued. In another study of osteoarthritis patients, strength training, balance therapy, and water-based exercise were found to be the best forms of exercise for reducing pain. Swimming and bicycling were those which were best tolerated by individuals with arthritis in the hips or knees.

While arthritis usually presents symptoms of fatigue, stiffness, and pain, which serve as a barrier to pursuing exercise, it is these very symptoms which dissipate with regular exercise. It simply comes down to a matter of taking those first steps and dealing with the short term pain, for the long term gain. Patients should start off slow and work their way up to a regular schedule of exercise as their stamina increases.