Arthritis and similar conditions affect more than 10 million people in the UK. Arthritis can be defined as a condition causing pain and inflammation in the joints. Arthritis isn’t a single disease, there are more than 150 types of arthritis affecting a range of populations across the world. Symptoms of arthritis range from mild to severe. While arthritis can’t be cured, its symptoms can be reduced with mobility and stretching exercises. In this article, we’re going to discuss why mobility and stretching are essential for arthritis.
Exercise and Arthritis
People with arthritis often worry exercise will cause more pain in the joints. This is far from the truth. Exercise has actually been shown to support the joints and strengthen the surrounding muscles. Additionally, exercise can help improve joint function and reduce the pain of arthritis. If our clients stop exercising after being diagnosed with arthritis, they can enter the deconditioning cycle. The deconditioning cycle states that people become less active when their joints become painful. Reduced activity leads to muscle atrophy and thus joint instability. Increased joint instability leads to more pain. Before we know it, our clients are experiencing more pain and thus engaging in less activity.
The best exercise program for a client with arthritis will include a mix of cardio, resistance, and range of motion exercises. The combination of these exercises will help your clients relieve their symptoms and minimise further damage to the joints. Exercise has benefits beyond aiding joint movement. Exercise can also help your clients maintain a healthy weight so there’s less pressure on their joints. Exercise also improves mood and makes everyday tasks a little bit easier. People with arthritis often say their condition affects their mental health and ability to perform day to day activities. While regular exercise isn’t going to completely reverse their arthritis, it can make the condition more manageable. The specific type of exercise you decide to engage your clients in will depend on their preferences and the severity of their symptoms. For more information on specific exercises, check out Versus Arthritis.
Mobility and Stretching Are Essential For Arthritis
Cardio, resistance, and range of motion exercises are all good forms of exercise for people with arthritis. However, since arthritis affects the joints, particular emphasis should be placed on range of motion exercises. Due to pain, inflammation, and stiffness, people with arthritis find it difficult to move certain joints around their full range of motion. As we’ve discussed, this leads to an ongoing cycle of more pain. Additionally, people with arthritis typically keep their joints in a bent position to help relieve pain. While this provides temporary comfort, keeping joints in a bent position over a prolonged period of time can further reduce joint mobility.
Mobility and stretching exercises involve moving the joint as far as it can go. This will likely vary on a day to day basis. But, the more your clients do the exercises, the stronger and more flexible their joints are going to get. This will lead to less stiffness over time. The main benefits of mobility and stretching exercises for arthritis are:
- Improved joint function
- Improved posture
- Increased flexibility
- Reduced pain and stiffness
- Lower risk of injury
How to Perform Mobility and Stretching Exercises
Mobility and stretching exercises should involve lengthening and bending the affected joints through a controlled range of motion. It’s important to move the joint as far as it can safely go to ensure motion preservation. Ideally, each exercise should be performed 10 times but will depend on the individual. Emphasis should be placed on moving the joint slowly and safely. Exercises may provide some discomfort, but if there is any sharp or severe pain, the exercise should be stopped immediately.
When to Perform Mobility and Stretching Exercises
Suffers of arthritis should be performing mobility and stretching exercises at least once a day. There is no ‘right’ time to perform these exercises, but focusing on exercises around prolonged sedentary periods can help maximise results.
In addition to daily dedicated mobility and flexibility sessions, exercises should also be performed before engaging in other forms of physical activity. Increasing the joint’s range of motion prior to exercise can help increase performance and reduce the risk of injury.
What Exercises Should Your Clients Perform
Specific exercises will depend on your client’s individual needs and particular areas of pain. However, a full-body daily session can be beneficial. Working up the kinetic chain from the feet to the head is most beneficial. For more information regarding specific exercises, visit Versus Arthritis.
Mobility and flexibility exercises should be performed daily by those suffering from arthritis. Moving the joints through their full range of motion can help improve joint function, flexibility, posture, and reduce pain, stiffness, and risk of injury.