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The Pain of Arthritis……When To Exercise and When Not To.

How Pilates Can Be One of the Best Forms of Exercise When You Suffer from Arthritis.

What is Arthritis….

When translated, arthritis is simply inflammation of a joint. This inflammation can be caused when the smooth articular cartilage on a joint has worn away, resulting in bone rubbing on bone. In the spine, arthritis can develop when the discs have degenerated or become thinner, resulting in the vertebrae rubbing on each other.

There are two main types of arthritis……

1. Osteoarthritis – This type of arthritis is caused by mechanical wear and tear of the joint…..This is the most common type of arthritis.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis – This less common type of arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the body’s joints.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and the type most easily managed with exercise. How do you know if your pain is coming from osteoarthritis?

Here are a few common symptoms of Osteoarthritis…..

1. Stiffness
2. Pain
3. Loss of Motion – Individuals oftentimes lose range of motion because movement of a joint is usually stiff, sore and painful. So the individual is reluctant to stretch the joint out of fear of exacerbating the pain and arthritis.
4. Loss of Strength – Individuals will sometimes lose strength in the arthritic area. This is usually because the individual overprotects the area, hoping the pain will subside. This will result in developing weakness in that area.
5. Clicking/Popping – Many times when a joint becomes arthritic, an individual will experience consistent clicking, popping and creaking. These noises are usually because the soft tissue has worn away and now the bones are rubbing on each other.

First and foremost, arthritis can only be diagnosed by a physician. The physician will typically use an x-ray as a diagnostic tool for arthritis.

If you are diagnosed with osteoarthritis, one of the best things you can do is to exercise. Improving range of motion, strength, flexibility, proprioception and balance can lead to less pain. However, there are times when exercise is the best choice and times when you will need to consult a physician for further medical attention.

Is Arthritis Heredity?

Certain studies reveal that there is a possible genetic component to Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, the jury is still out on whether or not if grandma has rheumatoid arthritis that means you will too.

Osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis), on the other hand, while it is not hereditary, certain genetic characteristics that grandma has can be passed on to you. And those characteristics can pre dispose you to possible pre-arthritic changes if you don’t first acknowledge those pre disposing characteristics are present and then do exercises to help work or stabilize those areas.

For example….if you are pretty flexible, I would bet your grandma was hypermobile too. That hyper-flexibility can lead to excessive movement in a joint (like your hip or knees). That excessive movement can lead to an increase in stress at the joint because you are so flexible. That stress at the joint can lead to arthritis (inflammation of the joint) developing sooner than later. So is the arthritis genetic or the hypermobility that lead to the arthritis genetic….studies show it is the later.

So what can you do?

If you know that there is a genetic component that puts you at risk for arthritis ….ie….knocked knees, scoliosis, hypermobility…..then you should focus a large portion of your regular exercise component on building the strength around those “genetic anomalies” that could lead to arthritis prematurely.

When to Exercise

Our joints and muscles get nutrition through movement.Once we start to move around a little we improve the lubrication and circulation around that joint. The last thing most of us feel like doing when our joints are stiff and sore is to exercise. However, that is usually exactly what we should do. Knowing how much, how often and what type of exercise is key to not exacerbating the arthritic pain. Consulting a physician or physical therapist regarding exercise is important to get you on the right track.

When NOT to Exercise

If you are experiencing moderate to severe pain in the arthritic joint, you may need to focus on a different area to exercise until that area calms down.

If you are experiencing excessive popping, instability in a joint or constant aching of the joint that is altering your normal activities, you should consult your physician before continuing to exercise that area.

Why Pilates Should Be Your Number One Choice of Exercise When You Suffer From Arthritis.

Low impact exercise is best for arthritic joints. Walking, swimming, water aerobics, gentle yoga and Pilates are great choices. These forms of exercise strengthen and stretch the body all while placing less stress on the area.

Pilates is a great method of exercise for people with arthritis for many different reasons:

1. It is easily adaptable to fit the needs and limitations of each individual.
2. It is a form of exercise that improves flexibility and strength throughout the entire body. And this improvement in strength and flexibility oftentimes leads to less stress around an arthritic joint.
3. Pilates helps to correct muscle imbalances that can lead to arthritic joints.
4. Pilates works the body as a whole, and this whole body exercise form can help individuals with arthritis feel like they can exercise without causing further pain and wear&tearing of the joints.

Which classes at ABS Pilates to Choose When You Suffer from Arthritis

ABS Pilates of Sunbury, Ohio offers gentle Pilates classes near you that are ideal for improving flexibility, strength and balance throughout the whole body.

If you suffer from arthritis, the best class to start with is the Restorative Reformer Pilates class at ABS Pilates. This class is offered on Thursdays at 7pm and Saturdays at 11:45am.

ABS Pilates is a specialized Pilates studio offering Pilates classes to meet the needs of everyone. ABS Pilates of Sunbury, Ohio services Columbus, New Albany, Gahanna, Galena, Westerville and Sunbury Ohio. All classes at ABS Pilates are lead by Amanda B. Smith, licensed physical therapist and certified Pilates instructor with more than 25 years of experience.

As always, it is strongly recommended that if you suspect that you have arthritis, consult your physician before you begin any exercise program.

Don’t let arthritis control your life. Get moving and feel better tomorrow.

Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith - Licensed Physical Therapist, certified Pilates instructor, ACE certified Group Exercise Instructor, ACE certified Health Coach, Certified McKenzie Therapist. Ready to help you become stronger and healthier in a safe, fun and holistic manner.