Exercise and Arthritis
By: Daniel Cryderman, BKin
One of the most common misconceptions about being diagnosed with osteoarthritis is that you should avoid movement. However, if you begin to avoid movements you can miss out on the many benefits that come along with them. Osteoarthritis can actually worsen more quickly if joint mobility and strength begin to decrease. In addition to strength training, ensuring you maintain joint mobility is vital to your pain management. Reduced joint mobility may not seem like a serious concern at the surface, but it can put into motion a cascade of adverse health effects.
Let’s talk a little more about this joint degeneration snowball effect – osteoarthritis is often a disease which accompanies the aging process. There are many factors which influence the occurrence of osteoarthritis, including genetics, trauma, obesity, and disorders such as hemophilia. Regardless of the cause, it is a degenerative disease – meaning it continues to worsen overtime. Once the process has begun, the cartilage surrounding commonly used joints, such as the hip and knee, continue to degrade. Healthy cartilage acts to absorb stresses at a joint and to provide a friction free surface for movement. Unsurprisingly, this loss of cartilage can result in pain, swelling, and inflammation.
Since osteoarthritis is most prevalent at frequently used joints, this pain and inflammation can make movement more difficult. As movement becomes more difficult, it is often avoided. However, as is often the case with osteoarthritis, this decrease in movement can result in weight gain, decreased mobility, and more problems. As body weight increases, the level of stress placed through the arthritic joints is also increased causing more inflammation, more pain, and less mobility. As you can see this can easily become a cascade of worsening symptoms.
Although a little bit of weight gain and inflexibility may not seem like much on the surface, it can have a further reaching indirect impact on health and lifestyle. In addition to weight gain, poor joint mobility is also associated with difficulty walking and an increased risk of falls. Obviously, an increase risk of a fall means a possibility of fracture or larger injury. Outside of the physical implications associated with arthritis, the inability to move or perform daily activities can also negatively impact mental health, as well.
Overall, it may not seem like much, but just a few minutes a day spent maintaining joint mobility can have massive implications for your lifestyle. In the last bit of this article, we provide you with some basic information on how to correctly stretch, and 5 of our favourite stretches for knee and hip osteoarthritis. If you are interested in making a lifestyle change toward improving your joint health, Ascend Fitness is running a 6-Week ArthroFit program starting October 25. For more information and upcoming programs, contact us at 604-858-9947, or visit www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com/arthrofit.
When Should I stretch?
While there aren’t any finite answers to when you should stretch, there are a few recommendations to ensure you get the best results. Typically, in the morning after a gentle warm-up is a safe bet.
Your muscles are most responsive to stretching when they are warmed up and more easily pliable. Try cycling or taking a walk before you stretch for best results.
While some discomfort may arise during your stretching routine, it should not be painful. Be sure to ease into your stretches if you are a beginner. Go to the point of a gentle stretching feeling, but not much beyond. Once at this point, hold it for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2x per stretch if time allows.
If you are sore for an extended period of time following your stretches, reduce back the intensity and listen to your body.
While stretching is most effective when done daily, or up to 2 times daily, it should at the least be done after exercise to help minimize the effects of soreness following an exercise routine.
Daniel Cryderman is a Registered Kinesiologist and fitness coach at Ascend Fitness Inc. The team of expert fitness coaches at Ascend Fitness inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition. Visit Ascend Fitness Inc. at www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.
Sit upright with good posture.
Bring one leg up over the other knee.
Next, gently pull your top knee toward your chest until you feel a stretch in the back of your hip.
Rectus Femoris Stretch
Begin by lying on your side on a comfortable surface.
Using a long strap or a towel, loop it around your back leg.
Bring your front knee up toward your chest.
Gently pull the strap over your shoulder until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip and down your thigh
Sit upright with good posture.
Put one leg out straight in front of you with your heel down and toe pulled back. Keeping good posture, hinge forward until you feel a stretch
in the back of your thigh.
Begin by sitting on the floor leaning on both hands behind you.
From a wide stance, gently drop one knee inward toward the floor.
Keep both sit bones planted on the floor during this stretch
Begin with a wide, split stance, using a wall for support.
Keeping your back leg straight, gently push your heel toward the ground until you feel a
stretch in the back of your calf muscle, below the knee.