Although some people will need surgery to repair their knee or hip joints, many can benefit from a balanced fitness and exercise program to ease their symptoms, according to a news release from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.
“While vigorous participation in sports and exercise over many years certainly can contribute to the wear and tear that causes osteoarthritis, an ongoing active lifestyle that includes regular, moderate-intensity, no or low-impact exercise also is the best way to prevent and ease osteoarthritis symptoms and disease progression,” said Dr. David D. Teuscher, an orthopaedic surgeon and the second vice president for the AAOS.
In fact, exercise performed three to five days a week for 30 to 45 minutes can help:
- Reduce pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.
- Improve flexibility and range of motion.
- Enhance muscle strength and endurance.
- Improve balance and coordination.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
A successful exercise program should include four components, according to the AOSSM: a warm-up, stretching, aerobic activity and anaerobic activity – strength training.
A typical warm-up is five minutes of mild intensity exercise such as walking or riding a stationary bike. The warm-up helps prepare the body for work out by increasing body temperature and elevating the heart rate gradually.
Essential to joint health, stretching should never hurt. Begin with easy stretches that can be held for 20 to 30 seconds each. In an osteoarthritis exercise program, typical stretches include:
- Standing, reach for toes.
- Standing diagonal, reach for toes.
- Arms across chest.
- Hands over head.
- Sitting on the floor, with one hip and knee bent and the sole of the foot resting on the thigh, reach for the toes.
- Using a wall or railing for balance, hold ankle behind buttocks.
- Standing with one forefoot up on a small step, gently push your heel to the floor.
For anaerobic activity – strength training – the AAOS, AOSSM recommends the following activities:
- Laying down straight leg raises.
- Side lying hip abduction/adduction.
- One-half squat.
- Knee flexion.
- Calf raises.
- Step lunges.
- Arm circles.
- Abdominal crunches.
“If these supervised measures don’t work, you should seek the advice of a physician who may use weight bearing diagnostic X-rays to confirm the condition of your painful joint,” Teuscher said.
Some patients benefit from physical therapy and medication. But first, it’s important to see a specialist for a proper diagnosis.
“For some patients, surgery to repair or replace knee or hip joints may be required to allow for a return to an active lifestyle and previously enjoyed activities,” Teuscher said.
Always consult a physician before beginning an exercise program. Stop exercising and see a health care provider if you experience an increase in swelling, stiffness or joint pain, dizziness, light-headedness or shortness of breath following physical activity.
Sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
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