How Exercise Can Improve Your Arthritis

Nearly a quarter of all adults in the United States suffer from arthritis. If you’re one of them, you know how the pain and discomfort can diminish your quality of life drastically, curtailing your mobility and the activities you can engage in. 

At Empire Physical Therapy & Athletic Rehabilitation, our physical therapists, Billy Reilly, MS, PT, and Paul LaRosa, MS, PT, possess vast experience compassionately treating patients with mild to severe arthritis. They’ll create a personalized treatment plan to meet your needs and address your pain, no matter what its level.

The mechanics of arthritis

Joint inflammation and pain are the hallmarks of osteoarthritis, the most common form of the disease, but you might also experience stiffness and even see redness on the skin covering  your painful joints. 

There’s virtually no joint that can’t be affected by arthritis, but the main ones tend to be in the hands, knees, and shoulders. When arthritis affects your spine, you’re plagued by back and neck pain. 

If arthritis gets bad enough, you may have trouble climbing stairs or getting in and out of bed — and forget about playing a sport or doing much else vigorously. 

Arthritis is painful because the cartilage that surrounds and protects the areas between your bones, wears away due to age, the wear-and-tear of repetitive motion, or injury. You may even feel as if your joints grind when you move them.

Who is at risk for arthritis? 

Unfortunately, you’re at higher risk of developing arthritis if you have a family history of the disease, suffer from an autoimmune disorder like fibromyalgia, or have experienced joint trauma or infection. 

Another key risk factor is obesity, and that’s one you can control. Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight can significantly reduce the severity of your arthritis or lower your chances of  developing the disease. 

The most important thing you can do to fight arthritis

It’s movement. Physical exercise can do more than almost any other home practice to alleviate the discomforts of arthritis — the debilitating pain, stiffness, and overall immobility. This second-to-none antidote for arthritis pain also:

Moving your body essentially builds and strengthens the foundation that your arthritic joints need to stay stable. 

What does an optimal arthritis exercise plan look like?

There are four pillars of an ideal exercise plan for arthritis sufferers:

Activities that build strength

Working with weights or doing moves like pushups helps strengthen the muscles around your joints and ease their stress.

Cardio exercise

Cardiovascular exercise is the type of movement that benefits your overall fitness and helps with weight control and heart health. Low-impact aerobic exercise is best if you have arthritis, because you’re not making contact with the ground abruptly. 

Examples of cardio exercise are walking, swimming, and biking. Work toward 150 minutes per week.

Balance exercises

Yoga and tai chi make your core and legs — body parts that are key for balancing and stability — stronger. The added stability they provide lowers your risk of falling. 

Range-of-motion exercises

Stretching and other moves that improve your range of motion help with stiffness and enhance your flexibility. If you do these exercises regularly, you may notice improvement in your symptoms and realize a better range of movement. 

Exercise complements your arthritis treatment plan

We work with you to lay out an exercise plan that’s safe and built around your needs, just as we do when we design your treatment plan. We give you exercises that you can do at home and that work in concert with your treatment plan, which may include physical therapy, a regimen of safe pain medications, or surgery. 

No matter what treatments you receive, exercise only helps you become stronger, more mobile, and, eventually, pain-free. 

Call us today to learn more about how exercise can help combat your arthritis. Set up an appointment by phone or book one through our website’s online tool. We’re located in Manhattan, convenient to the Upper East Side and Midtown East.

We also have helpful information about our office reopening following the COVID-19 surge in New York City.

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