Active Living with Arthritis

While most Canadians are busy celebrating the season in the garden, on the golf course, or taking a leisurely stroll, there are thousands who remain indoors, prisoners of arthritis pain. More than 50 per cent of older Canadians with arthritis surveyed in a recent poll said that arthritis limits some favorite springtime hobbies and social activities.

Ten years ago, exercise and springtime activities were seen as contributing to the onset of arthritis, and regular exercise for arthritis sufferers was unthinkable. But today, hobbies and exercise are seen as part of the solution, if done correctly and with proper medical guidance. Those in the recent survey who reported exercising regularly, were more likely to participate in other activities as well. Here are some tips:

  • Choose activities with minimal impact on affected joints. If arthritis affects the upper extremities, try walking or other activities that put more stress on the lower body. If lower extremities suffer from arthritis, participate in an activity that will work the upper body.

  • Low-impact leisure activities are recommended. Walking is easy to do anywhere and provides cardiovascular benefits.wimming and bicycling are also great options because they have minimal impact on joints.

  • Before starting any activity, work with a healthcare provider to get joint pain and inflammation under control and to determine the range of motion in the affected limb or limbs. You may have to modify the activity or the equipment — by inserting shock-absorbing insoles in your walking shoes, for example. Appropriate assistive devices, such as a cane or a splint/brace, may allow participation in favorite activities.

  • Start slowly. Continue activity for up to 20 minutes, but if you start to feel very tired, or something starts to hurt, don’t push it. Try to increase the time spent by 10 per cent every week. Back off if joints swell or become painful.

  • If a joint is particularly painful, reduce your activities, or apply ice before and after. A warm shower before taking part in any physical activity helps limber up stiff muscles and joints.

  • Arthritis takes shape in different forms and varying degrees of severity. Consult with your physician to determine the best arthritis treatment regimen for you.

  • It’s not a good idea to take pain medication before physical activity, since it could mask pain that will warn you you’re pushing yourself too hard. It’s better to plan activity for periods when your normal arthritis treatment regime is at its most effective in reducing pain.

  • Muscle or joint pain that lasts more than two hours after the activity means you probably pushed yourself too hard. Slow down.