Exercise has an important role in easing arthritis pain – best exercises

Rheumatoid Arthritis: NHS on common signs and symptoms

Arthritis and other joint issues are common in the UK, affecting around 10 million people.

There are different types of arthritis, with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis the most prevalent forms.

Depending on the type of arthritis you have it can leave you with painful, swollen and stiff joints, often resulting in mobility issues.

This can make it difficult to find the motivation to exercise and take part in physical activities.

However, one expert told Express.co.uk that exercise actually has an “important role” in managing your arthritis.

Doctor Mike Burdon, consultant in sport, exercise and MSK medicine at Pure Sports Medicine, explained: “Arthritis literally translates as ‘joint inflammation’ – there are various types of arthritis that we see in patients.

“This would usually lead to pain in the affected joint and sometimes visible swelling as well. One of the most common types is osteoarthritis – or bony arthritis.

“This can affect one or more joints but is not necessarily associated with widespread inflammation.

“More widespread inflammation can be seen in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis for example.

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“Exercise and diet both have a very important role to play in managing arthritis.”

However, not all forms of arthritis affect people in the same way and some cases will be more severe than others.

“For conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, exercise is of great benefit,” Dr Burdon said.

“Exercise itself reduces inflammation in the body and is very valuable in managing arthritis plus it has a role to play in prevention of arthritis initially.”

Type of exercises

He advised: “Initially lower or non-impact exercise such as swimming, cycling or gentle walking may be best.

“Aerobic exercise and strength training are both important- if overweight then weight loss and stronger muscles will help.

“Studies have actually shown that running actually reduces the risk of osteoarthritis in the long term – the myth that running is bad for you or causes arthritis has been shown to be false.”

One study, published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy in 2017, found that recreational runners had less chance of developing knee and hip arthritis compared to sedentary individuals and competitive runners.

It said: “The researchers concluded that running at a recreational level for many years – up to 15 years and possibly more – may be safely recommended as a general health exercise, and benefits hip and knee joint health.”

Dr Burdon added: “Physiotherapy and other rehabilitation may be required in individual cases to help reduce pain and improve function.”

However, he warned: “If the pain and swelling is very bad initially then a period of rest will be needed before exercise can be started or progressed.”

It is best to speak with your GP about what types of exercises are best for you if you have arthritis.

Common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • Inflammation in and around the joints
  • Restricted movement of the joints
  • Warm red skin over the affected joint
  • Weakness and muscle wasting.

If you think you have arthritis you should speak to your doctor.

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