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BONE STRENGTH: JOINT-FRIENDLY EXERCISES FOR RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS (PART 1)

Dr. Shakaib Qureshi

2 min read

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This common autoimmune form of arthritis usually targets small joints, such as those present in the wrists, hands and feet, causing them to become painful, tender, stiff and swollen. However, since aching joints should not affect body fitness, below we discuss some exercises for arthritis that can help you stay healthy. 

Brief: What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

As mentioned earlier, this is an autoimmune issue which means it happens due to a confusion in your immune system. The antibodies start attacking your body’s tissues by mistake.

This form of arthritis is persistent in nature and moves beyond just the joints. It is common for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis to suffer inflammations of the lungs, heart, and eyes as well. In some cases, the skin and blood vessels can be affected. 

This condition attacks the joints and causes inflammation at first. The persistent swelling leads to deformation of the limbs. In some cases, it can also start eating away at the bones. 

The pain and swelling as a result of the arthritis spreads to other parts and adversely affects them. In extreme cases, rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent damage to the joints and muscles leading to disabilities. However, with advances in medicine, there is hope for patients now. 

The Benefits of Exercise

Exercise is considered the number one non-medical treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), as it stabilizes joints, strengthens bones and muscles, improves movement and cholesterol, reduces hypertension, fatigue, and pain, and delays joint replacement surgery in severe cases.

Precautions

According to certain limitations posed by the condition, here are some precautions that people with RA should follow in order to avoid reverse damage and further aggravation:

  • Exercise at a moderate pace.
  • Rest for 2-3 days during or after a flare-up (inflammation).
  • If an exercise causes pain, stop immediately.
  • Wear comfortable, well-fitting clothing and shoes.
  • Balance between rest and exercise; both too much rest and over-exercising can weaken or worsen the joints.
  • Avoid high-impact exercises such as jogging, running, basketball, etc., as they can wear down the joints and lead to flare-ups

Endurance Exercises

Low-impact aerobic exercises like the ones below exercise the heart muscles and improve blood circulation and joint mobility by raising breathing and heart rates.

1- Walking

Start slow and short, gradually working up towards longer, faster walks as you build endurance and strength, while drinking plenty of water. People with arthritis in the hips, knees, and/or feet should opt for smooth dirt trails instead of uneven, concrete, or asphalt tracks to avoid further aggravation.

Certain healthier individuals may also opt for straight and inclined treadmill walking to challenge themselves. However, make sure not to increase the incline over 5-10% in order to avoid knee joint pain.

2- Swimming

Swimming and water aerobics are one of the best options for mild-severe lower joint pain and those with surgically replaced joints. Water-exercises build muscle strength by acting as a resistance against them, improve cardiovascular endurance by increasing heart rate, and reduce joint stress by helping to support body weight. Moreover, warm water reduces joint stiffness. Beginners may initially use a kickboard in order to adjust to moving in water, while starting out small with 5-10 minute sessions, gradually increasing to 30-minute sessions.

Although water exercises may be easy and comforting, refrain from over-exercising by setting time limits in order to avoid causing adverse effects on arthritic joints.

3- Cycling

Regular cycling improves wrist, finger, hip, and knee joint strength and mobility. While people with minor arthritic complaints may opt for regular cycling, those with moderate to severe lower body or wrist arthritis may choose stationary bikes to reduce the risk of falling.

In both cases, work up to faster cycling with a slow start, avoid low handlebars that require hunching over, as they increase stress on the hands, wrists, ad elbows, and adjust the seat height so that your knee is slightly bent when placed on the pedal.

Tai-Chi

This is another one of the important exercises for arthritis. It is a traditional Chinese exercise which is based on connecting the body and mind through slow, smooth, and systematic movements and postures. A general daily tai-chi session for people with RA ranges between 20-40 minutes, and provides the following health benefits:

  • Improved strength, flexibility, and balance
  • Better coordination, posture, and endurance
  • Improved walking

However, while the exercise is suitable for all RA levels, people with severe arthritis or balance issues may choose to avoid complex positions that require balancing while standing.

All in all, rheumatoid arthritis is a painful condition and should be dealt with carefully. Although the above-mentioned exercises for arthritis are best-suited for joint and overall health improvement, remember to consult with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.

You can also book an appointment with a top Orthopedic Specialist in Multan, Lahore and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your skeletal concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Shakaib Qureshi - Author Dr. Shakaib Sajid Qureshi is a Rheumatologist practicing in Lahore. He is M.D (USA), Fellow American College of Rheumatology, American Board Certified In Rheumatology, American Board Certification in Internal Medicine, MBBS and has 24 years of experience.
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