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Osteoarthritis and Exercise

If you have osteoarthritis (OA), exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing! The pain and stiffness can make you want to do the complete opposite of exercise.

Did you know that research shows that exercise is as effective in relieving symptoms as are pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs? 

Osteoarthritis is a common chronic disorder of the joints. In a normal joint, there is cartilage that covers the surfaces of the joints and helps to absorb shock and allow smooth movements; however in osteoarthritis, the cartilage of the affected joint wears down until little to none remains and the bones rub together. This causes pain, swelling and restrictions in movement. Whilst there is no known cure for osteoarthritis, exercise is recommended as a first-line intervention.

Strong evidence supports that aerobic and strengthening exercise programs are beneficial for improving pain and physical function in adults with mild-to-moderate knee and hip OA.

Aerobic exercise includes walking, cycling or using a rowing machine. Other types of aerobic exercise such as jogging, running or skipping are considered “high-impact” because they place high loads through the joints and therefore should be avoided.

Strengthening exercises may use body weight, resistance bands or weights to create resistance against the muscles which can in turn strengthen them. It is important to include strengthening exercises, as stronger muscles can help to support the joints better. Additionally, it can also help to combat the effects of age-related loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) and bone mineral density.

It is important to note that you may experience some discomfort in the affected joint when exercising, however this does not mean that the osteoarthritis is worsening; in fact, this is normal!

You should always get a comprehensive assessment by an appropriately qualified health care provider prior to beginning an exercise program. This assessment should include clinical evaluation of your osteoarthritis, and should identify any other health conditions that may be worsened by exercise.

Here at Southside Physiotherapy, we have our Exercise Physiologist who can develop a safe and appropriate exercise program to manage your osteoarthritis and help to relieve the symptoms.

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