5 Arthritis Myths – Busted!

By Flannery Dean

Exercise can be an effective way of dealing with arthritis symptoms.

5 Arthritis Myths – Busted!
Photo: iStock

Arthritis Myth #1: You can’t exercise

If you have arthritis, the right fitness programme could help you get relief from your symptoms by improving strength, balance, flexibility and range of motion.

“If you have arthritis, it’s important to stay as active as you can,” says physiotherapist Karen Gordon.

Tip
Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. Dust off your bike, buy a new bathing suit, start strength training – get moving in the ways that bring you the most happiness.

Arthritis Myth #2: Exercise produces joint pain

The more sedentary you are, the more things are going to hurt. Exercise helps by building strength and flexibility and controlling weight, says Gordon. One less kilogram on the scale equals four kilograms less pressure on your knees. Alternate easy days with more challenging days. Gordon suggests swimming or using an exercise bike when pain is more bothersome.

Tip
To help with painful, swollen knees, wear a brace. Stiffness could be a sign you need to start moving to lubricate your joints. Always consult a healthcare professional prior to starting an exercise regimen.

Arthritis Myth #3: Pain is always a bad thing

It’s better to regard pain as a signal to pay attention. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help relieve soreness after exercise; taking them beforehand may mask the instructive sensation you need to feel to judge when to stop.

Tip
Stop what you’re doing if joint pain increases after five or ten minutes, says Gordon. Burning discomfort in the muscles, however, is a good thing.

Arthritis Myth #4: Exercise puts joints at risk

Exercise strengthens joint-supporting muscles. Movement lubricates squeaky joints, strengthens muscles and increases flexibility, which all improve quality of life – and not just for those with arthritis.

Tip
Studies show weight-bearing exercise – walking, jogging or lifting weights – produces the healthiest knee cartilage. If sore joints are impeding your workout, you can still head for the pool, where you can jog, squat and do lunges in the water.

Arthritis Myth #5: Follow a restrictive exercise regime

Arthritis sufferers can engage safely in a variety of physical activities. Low-impact activities such as swimming, aquatic exercise, cycling and walking are excellent options. But, so too is running – if it doesn’t cause you pain when you do it or for days afterwards. Listen to your joints and make appropriate modifications.

Tip
As a rule, walk, don’t run if you have osteoarthritis, and avoid high-impact, twisting racquet sports.

Osteoarthritis and Body Weight

If you’re overweight, you’re at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis – particularly of the knees. Why? Experts believe that extra stress on the weight-bearing joints damages cartilage. According to one study, the risk of knee osteoarthritis increases by 36 per cent with every five kilograms of weight gain, and even a ten per cent weight loss can significantly improve overall function. While losing weight is important, reducing your percentage of body fat and increasing your muscle strength can also help ease pain and increase mobility. One of the best ways to increase muscle is strength training. If you have osteoporosis in the knees, you should strengthen your quadriceps (upper thigh muscles). The stronger they are, the more strain they can take off your knees.

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