Although it was once thought to damage arthritic joints, exercise is now recognized by physicians for its ability to:
• Decrease joint pain
• Increase flexibility
• Strengthen muscles around joints
• Improve mood and outlook
• Help straighten posture and improve balance
• Help control weight, which can reduce other symptoms
• Improve blood flow to the joints by strengthening the heart
Exercise can help relieve the effects of osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis.
Even if you have not had an active lifestyle, now is a good time to talk with your physician and start an exercise program. Develop a physical activity regimen that includes these three types of exercise.
Flexibility, or range of motion: You can keep your joints limber by taking them through their full motions. Yoga, Tai Chi and other gentle stretching movements can help you reduce your risk of injury, prepare your body for more strenuous exercise, help you relax and reduce tension. Build up to 15 minutes of flexibility exercises every day.
Strength: Use some type of resistance, such as weights or an exercise band, to increase the force on your muscles. Always start with a gentle warm-up prior to strength training.
Aerobic: By moving the large muscles rhythmically, these cardiovascular and endurance exercises get your heart pumping. They also help your lungs work more efficiently and help improve stamina.
Maintaining good posture helps reinforce your exercise regimen by preventing strain on the muscles of your neck, shoulders, back and knees. Paying attention to your posture is especially important these days as our lives become more sedentary and computer driven.
Practicing good posture yields many benefits to the spine and joints. These include:
• Keeping the bones and joints in correct alignment.
• Helping decrease abnormal strain on the discs and joints.
• Decreasing stress on the ligaments that hold the joints of the spine together.
• Preventing the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions as we age.
• Enabling you to use the muscles more efficiently, thereby using less energy and limiting fatigue.
• Eliminating muscular pain and backache.
• Contributing to a good appearance.
If you work sitting down, be sure that your chair is suited to good posture. You should have a space of about two inches between the edge of the chair and the back of your knees. The seat’s height is correct if your hips are slightly higher than your knees forming approximately a 90 degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. When viewing a computer monitor, the top of the screen should be at or below your eye level.
You can improve your standing posture with the following: With your feet apart and knees slightly bent, tighten your stomach muscles; imagine that someone is pulling you up by a string attached to the top of your head. Imagine two straight, vertical lines connecting your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and heels. Standing in this way maintains the natural curves of your back, reducing stress along the spine.
Northern Nevada Medical Center can help people live with arthritis and improve their posture through its Outpatient Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Center, located in the Sparks Medical Office Building at 2385 E. Prater Way, Suite 301. The center features a large, open gym and three private treatment rooms. The advanced therapy equipment includes an automated REPEX Therapy Table, which facilitates passive-motion exercises for the lower back, and a Pilates reformer machine that features springs, pulleys and cables that provide resistance during exercises.
If you have joint pain, I also offer free 15-minute joint pain assessments. Call 356-4960 for an appointment.
Steven Hallan has 15 years of experience as an outpatient physical therapist. He holds a credential in McKenzie therapy, specializing in disorders of the spine and peripheral joint problems. Hallan bases his treatment on a detailed evaluation of the causes of a mechanical spine or joint pain. Therapy includes manual techniques, stretches and exercise to resolve the problem plus educating the patient on preventing a reoccurrence of the injury.