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How to Manage Arthritis and Increase Your Activity Level

By Kate Zanoni, LPTA

In the past week, we have felt a dramatic weather change. Just a few days ago, temperatures were in the mid-80s and we had a flashback to summer. Fast forward a few days and we had to pull out the sweaters, jackets and scarves. While the change in weather brings some welcomed signs of fall, like leaves changing colors, it can also bring with it some less pleasant symptoms like joint stiffness, pain and inflammation. Arthritis symptoms can increase with changes in weather. But there are ways you can manage the pain and also increase your activity level.

You’ve probably heard the word ‘osteoarthritis’ but what exactly does it mean and what are the symptoms?

Osteoarthritis:

  • Joint inflammation that causes pain and stiffness
  • It is progressive
  • There is no cure for arthritis. (You can’t reverse the damage)
  • Wear and tear of cartilage is continuous and worsens over time.
  • Treatment: “Motion is Lotion” (stretching and strengthening)

Osteoarthrits is caused by progressive degeneration and wearing down of articular cartilage over time which means there is less cushioning between the joints. Over time, your joints will not have the cushion they need to function optimally leading to ‘bone on bone’ and therefore increased pain and decreased range of motion.

Stiffness, pain and inflammation in the joints are common complaints we hear in the clinic from folks dealing with arthritis. These symptoms are usually intermittent but particularly present in the morning when you wake up because you are just starting to move around. The symptoms also tend to be noticeable after you have stayed in the one position for too long. Both these factors can lead to stiffness and pain. Weather factors can increase pain as well. When there is a change in barometric pressure, there may also be increased inflammation in the joint capsule. People with severe arthritis are often intolerant to the cold.

Rule of thumb: Motion is lotion. Pain often decreases after you warm up with exercise. While the reality of osteoarthritis is that there is no cure, you can manage the symptoms.

Arthritis

How can physical therapy help Osteoarthritis:

  • Physical therapy has been shown to decrease pain and inflammation while increasing range of motion, strength, flexibility and overall function
  • It can be painful to exercise when you first get started with exercise because of joint stiffness, but it’s actually one of the best activities you can do to increase joint lubrication (Motion is Lotion!)
  • Stretching tight muscles helps improve flexibility and decrease joint stiffness
  • Strengthening muscles helps support your joints, decreasing the pressure on overburdened, painful and stiff joints

What are some specific activities you can do to help reduce joint pain associated with arthritis?

  • Daily stretching and strengthening
  • Walking program
    • Go for a brisk walk for 15-30 minutes several times per day
    • Get your heart pumping (cardiovascular health, too)
  • Swimming
    • Buoyancy and warm water help soothe achy joints
    • Low-impact aerobic exercise helps strengthen your muscles without overloading or overstressing them
  • Posture Checks
    • Improve your posture when you stand and when you are sitting
  • Change your sleeping positions; Optimize your spinal alignment and decrease lower back pain
    • Place a pillow under your knees when you sleep on your back
    • Place a pillow between your knees if you lay on your side


Arthritis can be managed and controlled! 
Physical therapy can help you decrease that pain and improve your level of activity so you can live a healthier more fulfilling life.
Call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center TODAY at 703-450-4300 and start handling your pain or arthritis.