Arthritis is a common disorder characterized by pain and swelling in the affected joints. This condition is usually limited to certain specific joints such as the knees, hips or spine. Exercise can play a vital role in the management of arthritis. Regular physical activity can keep the muscles around affected joints strong, reduce bone loss and may help control joint swelling and pain. Regular activity increases lubrication to the supporting tissues of the joint and reduces pain and stiffness in these tissues.1
There are three main types of exercise that can be beneficial in arthritis:
- Range-of-motion exercises that help to reduce stiffness and keep the joints flexible.
- Strengthening exercises that help to maintain or increase muscle strength.
- Fitness exercises that help to increase endurance.
Physical activity need not be strenuous to achieve health benefits. Older adults can obtain significant health benefits with moderate amounts of physical activity, preferably on a regular basis. The Arthritis Foundation recommends that active range of motion exercises be performed 1 to 2 times daily while strengthening training can be done 2 to 3 times per week. Fitness exercise is recommended 3 to 5 times per week.2 Range of motion exercises such as shoulder circles, leg swings and lying knee-to-chest pulls will improve the flexibility of joints and prevent gradual losses in motion.
In an extreme condition, a joint may need to be replaced completely to cure the painful joint condition.
Exercise is the cornerstone of rehabilitation therapy following total joint replacement for arthritis. Evidence shows that increased bone quality will improve fixation of the artificial joint and reduce the incidence of early loosening.3 Additionally, preoperative exercise prior to total joint replacement has been documented to significantly reduce the need of rehabilitation procedures following surgery.4
- The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Role of Exercise in Arthritis. http://www.hopkins-arthritis.org/patient-corner/disease-management/exercise.html. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
- Arthritis Foundation. Exercise and Arthritis. http://www.arthritis.org/exercise-intro.php. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
- Kuster MS. Exercise Recommendations After Total Joint Replacement: A Review of the Current Literature and Proposal of Scientifically-based Guidelines. Sports Med. 2002; 32(7): 433–445.
- Rooks DS, Huang J, Bierbaum BE, Bolus SA, Rubano J, et al. Effect of Preoperative Exercise on Measures of Functional Status in Men and Women Undergoing Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty. Arthritis Rheum. 2006; 55(5): 700–708.