If you are able to get out of bed and run or even walk without pain, then consider yourself blessed. There are many who are virtually in tears with every step they take.
One common cause of such pain in weight bearing joints is Osteoarthritis also referred to as “wear & tear” disease. There are several types of arthritis and osteoarthritis is the commonest one and we will restrict our discussion to this.
Osteoarthritis is a degeneration of the smooth cartilage overlying the bones and eventually leading to excessive growth of the bones at the joint surface.
What do people experience:
• Onset is usually gradual
• Decreased mobility and mild morning stiffness often lasting less than thirty (30) minutes
• Initially pain occurs with movement and is relieved by rest
• As disease progresses pain may occur even at rest and is more common at night
Who is most at risk:
• Age; often after forty years
• Injured or overused joint
• Family history of osteoarthritis
• Muscle weakness
The joints most often affected are weight bearing joints that include:
• Vertebrae (back bone)
Management of Osteoarthritis involves
• Weight loss if obese
• Exercises to improve joint mobility, strengthen muscles and relieve pain
• Physiotherapy (use of therapeutic processes in addition to exercises)
• Pain killers
Reasons exercise is important for people with osteoarthritis (and other arthritis)
• Increases strength and flexibility around joints
• Helps maintain or increase bone strength
• Provides nourishment and lubrication to joints
• Prevents muscles wasting away from lack of use
Preferred frequency and time of exercising
• When there is least amount of pain and stiffness
• When individual is least tired
• When you receive the maximum benefit from your medications, but do not overdose to mask pain.
Important points to note
• Prepare for exercise by thermally warming up the affected joint(s) using massage, heating pad, warm shower or gentle rhythmic movements
• Never exercise a swollen, tender, “red” joint
• Non-weight bearing exercises are preferred and this includes; swimming, water exercise and stationary biking
• Avoid vigorously exercising a painful joint – running, skipping and group aerobic sessions (that are not specific for arthritis) are a no go area.
Dear reader remember that this condition may be life-long and you will have bad days sometimes. Do take a break from physical activity when the joint hurts badly but NEVER QUIT!!
Remember only your doctor can make a diagnosis of osteoarthritis and he/she will often advice on the course of management. In certain cases surgical intervention is necessary.
Dr. Kojo Essel
Moms Health Club
• Fitness Therapy 3rd edition. Dr Karl Knopf
• Mosby’s Ace the Boards