Do you suffer from arthritis?

Do you suffer from arthritis?

Coming into the winter months, we often see patients with flares of their arthritis. Osteoarthritis is common in Ireland. Osteoarthritis affects approximately 10% of the country. It is no wonder we see many arthritis patients in our clinic.

Arthritis is an issue that needs to be managed. There is no “cure” per se. But, with the right guidance arthritis can be kept at bay. You can recover to a point where your pain levels no longer leave you scared and you can do what you love again. Your recovery from arthritis will mean fewer flares. Or, just the less debilitating each flare is. The fewer flares there are. And, The less pain there is. The better it is for you!

In the clinic most people with arthritis are scared. They are scared because they believe that when there is a pain in their joints that they are causing more damage to the joint itself. This is not the case. Pain doesn’t always mean damage. Doing something that hurts the joint a bit is fine once that pain settles within 24 hours. I don’t want you to stop doing everything you love. But, I also don’t want you suffering from pain so there’s a balance we have to strike.

What’s the best way to treat arthritis?

Of course, there are many treatments for arthritis. Lots of these aid your recovery. But, what is the best treatment for arthritis?

Well, The NICE guidelines for treating arthritis have one “core” treatment. That core treatment for arthritis is exercise. What are NICE guidelines? Well NICE stands for; National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Safe to say they know a thing or two about the treatment of arthritis.

Many of our patients have tried using exercise as a treatment for arthritis before. But, they have found their pain levels have increased and this puts them off. Often the issue with this isn’t the exercise itself. When it comes to treating arthritis you don’t just use any old exercise. We are talking about exercise as a treatment. This means there is a correct dose. And, that dose is different for every person.

To get the best benefit from exercise treatment for arthritis you need the guidance of a healthcare professional. Physiotherapists can help with this. When exercising you may get sore. But, a physio can help you differentiate between;

  1.  The right amount of muscle soreness that’s acceptable.

OR

2. Joint pain that’s to be avoided. 

Will my recovery from arthritis be permanent?

Unfortunately, arthritis is a condition that is managed more than cured. There will be days when you don’t even remember you have arthritis, there will be days where it will flare and be sore again. The better you manage arthritis the longer you will go without pain. Exercise is one part of your recovery that can help. There are also things you can do or we can do to help with it.

Firstly, it is shown that heat therapy can be very good for arthritic joints. Heat therapy isn’t the cure. It’s not going to get rid of your arthritis. But, heat will help to alleviate your pain. Heat therapy is not something you need to go to a physiotherapist for. Some clinics offer and use heat packs as part of arthritis treatment. But, you can do this at home yourself quite easily. A hot shower, warm bath, or even the humble hot water bottle can work wonders to reduce pain from arthritis.

Along with exercise and heat, joint mobilizations can help to reduce your pain too. Unfortunately,  unless you live with a physio you’ll have to come into the clinic in order to get this done. What are joint mobilizations? The best way to think of these is, as stretches for the joint. Most stretches you feel in your muscles. These you will feel in your joints. They can be useful during a flare. Again they are the cure for arthritis. They help you recover from arthritic pain but they are just an assistant to the core treatment for arthritis. The core treatment for arthritis is exercise.

What also is shown to aid in recovery from arthritis is weight loss. Often times it’s not just the loss of weight that helps. But, the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight include strength training, physical activity, healthy eating, and good sleep. All of which are good for your joint health. 

What kinds of exercises are best for arthritis?

There is no one best exercise. You need strength training to have healthy joints. On top of that though it is best to find a type of exercise you enjoy that doesn’t aggravate your pain. Enjoying what you are doing exercise-wise gives you a way better chance of sticking to it. On top of exercise though being physically active regularly and often is key to treating arthritis.

What’s the difference between physical activity and exercise? Exercise is something structured like going for a run, going to the gym, or playing football. Physical activity is the movement you do throughout the day. While 30 mins of exercise are great to help your recovery from arthritis. Being physically active throughout the day in small bursts is also very beneficial.

Joints are made to move and moving them regularly is best. Think of your joints as a hinge on a door. A door that isn’t opened is prone to sticking and when it does open the hinge creeks. Doors that open and close regularly throughout the day rarely stick. Sitting down and resting to help your arthritic joints is more likely to make them rust. Getting up and moving as much as is tolerable is your way of putting a bit of WD40 into the joints.

I don’t have time to do physical activity.

Somebody once told me. “If something is worth doing it’s worth doing wrong”. This may sound odd because half of us are perfectionists. And, the other half is used to having had our parents or teachers give out to us with the old “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”.

The reason I say “if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing wrong” is because doing even 1 minute of exercise is worth far more than hours of intention. There are many ways you can fit in physical activity to your day no matter how busy you are.

If you don’t have time to get out for a walk before work. Why don’t you try hopping off the bus a few stops earlier and walking down to work from there? If you don’t get pain on the stairs take them instead of the lift. Walk to the shop instead of driving. Go to the coffee shop at the end of the road rather than next door. Sure even if every time you finish an episode of Netflix or the TV goes to an ad you could simply get up, walk to the door of whatever room you are in, and then sit back down that’s more activity than just sitting there.

I don’t have the motivation to do formal exercises.

Motivating yourself to start is the hardest part. But, there are a number of things you can do to help.

  1. Get a buddy. It’s easier to let yourself down than it is to let a friend down. Having a training partner can help motivate you to do more. Weather it’s a walking buddy or somebody that comes to the gym with you.
  2. Pick the right facility. Often what’s actually more of a barrier to strength training or exercising is the type of gym you join. You can often feel lost in a big commercial gym. If this is the case then try out a private training facility like ours in Lucan. We have 1 to 1 or 4 to 1 classes lead by physiotherapists. This may suit you better. Once you build confidence here then maybe you could try out a different place if you want to go it alone.
  3. Make a goal. If you are exercising to relieve your arthritic pain then you start to run away from the pain. It’s better to have a separate goal to achieve to keep you motivated.

How do I make the right goal?

Making a goal when you are in pain can be difficult. But, it’s important. When making a goal there are many different things different people will tell you to focus on. I feel when making a goal it is best to keep it simple. Now, this simple doesn’t mean easy or vague. “I want to get stronger”. That goal is simple. But, it is not easy to do. Also, it’s very vague.

Your goal needs to be.

  1. Specific.
  2. Measurable. And.
  3. Realistic.

Now if you want to get stronger how you set this goal is by picking something you aren’t currently strong enough to do and aiming for that. For example, if I had arthritis in my knee. And, it hurt me to do squats. Then an appropriate goal would be. I want to be able to squat.

Specific? Yes.. A squat is a specific exercise.

Measurable? Yes.. you either can or can’t squat.

Realistic? Yes.. one squat is a very realistic goal for somebody with arthritis in their knee.

What’s good about this goal is it can be broken down. Okay, you want to be able to squat. But, what would make that possible? More strength in your quads for starters. You can do exercises to strengthen the quads that don’t cause pain. More mobility in your ankles. You can do mobility work for your ankles and this will make it easier to squat as you get more mobile.

You will be able to focus on little wins that will contribute to your bigger goal. And what’s the best thing about this? Well, you’ve been focusing on your goal instead of your pain the whole time!

If you have any questions about the treatment of arthritis feel free to contact us for more information. You can contact us by phone., or any of our social media channels. Alternatively email us at info@painandperformanceclinic.ie

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Tommy Brennan

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Our goal here is to get you out of pain and back to your physical best so that you can enjoy the things that are important to you.  

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