Did you know, 3.9 million, or 1 in 6 Australians have some form of arthritis.
What do you do when your car tyre tread begins to wear down? Do you manage it until it needs to be repaired? Do you replace the tyre immediately? or do you just leave it and hope for the best?
The joints in your body are similar. Generally, our joints have cartilage, or a connecting cushion, between 2 bones which reduce friction when movement occurs. Just like a tyre reduces the friction between the metal rim and the road.
Over time, the cartilage in your joints may begin to wear down, thin, or tear. Do you manage it until it needs to be repaired? Do you replace the joint immediately? or do you just leave it and hope for the best?
If you don’t address a damaged joint it will be painful and stiff. It will become squeaky, and start to swell. It may mean the 2 bones which make up the joint and would not normally touch, are now rubbing against one another. And just like a tyre on your car, if you don’t get on top of it early enough it’ll damage much more.
Typically the ‘wearing down’ of a joint is the most common form of arthritis, it’s also known as osteoarthritis. It is associated with ‘old’ age, being overweight, repetitor joint injury. It can occur in one or more joints of the body; most commonly, the hands, hips, spine, and knee.
However, there are various other types of arthritis, some being Juvenile idiopathic and Rheumatoid arthritis, Gout, Fibromyalgia, and Ankylosing Spondylitis.
WHAHHH THE?? Right…
Not all types of arthritis occur at an ‘old’ age. You may start to experience joint pain at any time of the day and for no apparent reason at all. It may last minutes, or it may last days.
Having friends in high school experience severe joint pain for weeks on end and not being able to understand why or what they did was a little hard to wrap my head around. Considering we were only 14-15 years old. Why would they have arthritis?
Well… Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, is similar to Rheumatoid arthritis, although it only occurs in children and adolescents. YES, it’s a thing! Kids can get a form of arthritis too!!
Both of these types of arthritis differ from osteoarthritis. It occurs as a result of the immune system, which starts to attack the healthy joint cushion (your ‘tyre’) and causes severe pain, heat, and swelling.
One of my friends once explained it as though you’ve badly burnt your wrist on something hot, so you’ve wrapped 5 thick bandages around the burn, and then you try to move. It feels painful, irritated, warm, and restricted.
As mentioned, there are various other types of arthritis, but that’s a whole other blog.
Having any form of arthritis might not just stop you from running and jumping, but it may also affect your mental health. Feeling like you can’t even do the normal things you used to be able to do may be hard to grasp. Things like experiencing knee pain whilst walking around a shopping center for hours, hip pain when looking after and playing with your grandkids, shoulder pain when hanging the washing out. Even your kids, they may experience agony when they’re in class trying to grip onto a pen.
Recent studies state that optimal treatment for all forms of arthritis should involve patient education, self-management and you guessed it… EXERCISE.
Sometimes the thought of exercise when you’re experiencing pain, may sound ridiculous. But let me take you back to the beginning where I mentioned your tyre and car. By managing the issue (with exercise), it will help you move faster, smoother, and better. It will also make you stronger and more reliable.
Over time joint range in patients with any type of arthritis may worsen without exercise intervention. Therefore, exercise is an integral part of arthritis rehabilitation; it has the potential to mobilise your joints, and minimise joint pain and stiffness when prescribed appropriately.
Some other benefits of exercise may be:
- Improved mental health
- Improved aerobic capacity (Heart and lung health)
- Improved strength to stabilise the joints and assist with pain reduction
- Improved movement range and joint flexibility
- Improved balance and joint movement in space (proprioception)
- Decreased the risk of falls
- Reduced functional decline
Although if a joint is extremely degenerated or hasn’t been attended too, a joint replacement may be required. However, exercise can also help before and after any surgery, by strengthening the area that is being operated. It can reduce recovery time and help you get back to your everyday life a little quicker.
Studies recommend daily stretching to improve joint tightness, stiffness, and flexibility. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling, or swimming for ~30minutes a day on 3-5 days a week. Along with bodyweight or resistance exercises on 2-3 days per week.
Surprisingly, the same goes for kids. But according to the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines for children and young people, they should aim for ~45-60 minutes of aerobic exercise on 5-7 days per week.
If you decide to begin performing exercise unsupervised it is important that:
- You aim to avoid strenuous or intense exercises during a flare-up (particularly if you have Juvenile idiopathic or Rheumatoid arthritis)
- You select the appropriate time of day to exercise. As it may influence how much activity or exercise can be completed due to pain levels, swelling, and medication.
- It is vital to have a safe, low impact and tailored exercise program
- The wrong exercises, or too much, may significantly overload the joints and cause further injury, pain, or swelling.
o find out more information about managing your arthritis and learning more about possible support services, access:
If you would like further guidance on which exercises may be appropriate, or are interested in a program tailored to your own condition and abilities feel free to contact the Revitalize team on (03) 9016 3415.