Osteoarthritis (OA) is characterised by joint pain, swelling and reduced range of movement due to break down of cartilage.
Common sites of OA include the back, neck, hips, knees and hands. Although exercise cannot halt or reverse the cartilage degeneration in the affected joint/s, what it can do is help to enable the body to manage the demands of daily activities. This requires incorporating exercises to build and maintain muscular strength, promote and preserve range of joint movement and to encourage regular aerobic exercise. This will look different for each individual with OA.
Strengthening exercises are essential to provide joints with support to better mitigate symptoms of OA. A great functional strengthening exercise is a sit to stand from a dining chair. Focus should be on slow controlled movements on both standing and sitting. Building strength and control will also have the bonus of improving balance, decreasing risk of falls and reducing the instance of trauma related pain in conjunction with the OA pain.
Incorporating stretches into daily routine will help to keep joints moving well and combat joint stiffness. As OA-associated stiffness is often worse in the mornings after waking, taking the time to stretch and work through each affected joint range can have a really positive impact on approaching the day’s activities.
Aerobic exercise can take the form of walking, cycling, swimming or something else dependent on your interests and availability to access facilities required. If long walks result in symptoms worsening then shorter walks at different times of the day may be more appropriate and enjoyable. Maintaining and improving aerobic fitness in the face of OA is vital for cardiovascular function and preventing health issues that stem from immobility.