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Use It or Lose It – Mobility and Arthritis
With osteoarthritis, the phrase “use it or lose it” is particularly applicable. Exercise (when done right), can be an effective way to help minimize the pain associated with the condition. When you move your joints, you stimulate the production of synovial fluid, our bodies natural joint liner. The more synovial fluid you produce, the more lubricated your joints will be.
When you have osteoarthritis, you need all the synovial fluid you can produce because, osteoarthritis is due to a gradual loss of the connective tissue – cartilage – that acts like a shock absorber, and prevents your bones from rubbing against each other. As we lose cartilage, our bones do not glide as smoothly. When the loss of cartilage becomes extreme, the eventual result is that the bones within the affected joint rub directly against each other.
When putting together a safe exercise program, keep in mind exercises that promote motion in your joints. For example, try these gentle range-of-motion exercises when sitting on the side of the bed before you start your day, or when watching TV.
Start with your toes together. Then try to spread your toes wide. Attempt to spread all five toes equally. Some toes will likely move more easily than others. If this is the case, spread the less mobile toes wide with your fingers, then let go and let them return to their starting position. This will help your brain learn how to do the motion without assistance.
Big Toe Lifts, Toe Lifts
Keep your four other toes still and raise your big toe 10 times. Keep your big toe stable and raise your other four toes 10 times.
Rotate your foot at your ankle joint five times clockwise and five times counterclockwise.
A Thorough Warm-Up
Aim for a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes of gentle activity. Include exercises that promote balance, core control and proper posture. Things to stay away from are isometric exercises, like low static squats or front and side planks. An isometric exercise is one where you are required to hold a position, they are not ideal because they reduce blood flow to the muscles surrounding the static joint. Avoid high impact activity. Instead, do low impact activity. Always have one foot touching the ground at all times. For example, instead of doing jumping jacks, do alternating side toe taps with an arm reach. Avoid over-stretching, or exercises that require extreme joint motions. Eliminate intense yoga classes from your workout program, or at least be very careful participating in such classes. Do not stretch to your ultimate limits, make sure that you inquire if the instructor has experience teaching people with osteoarthritis. Do not work through pain, inflammation or swelling.
Kathleen Trotter, MS (Exercise Science), BA (Honours) is an ironman competitor, personal trainer and writer.
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