Arthritis: Pain = Strength = Hope
Be motivated by what you can do, not defeated by what you can’t.
Arthritis is more than a little annoying! A sign of ageing? Generally, but our joints are likely to age far faster than we do if not looked after well. Can we improve our symptoms or slow down the progress, absolutely.
Although this blog is based on arthritis, musculoskeletal conditions encompass not only the different types of arthritis but lower back pain, osteoporosis, gout, etc. These are the most common reason for people living with disability in the UK. ALL can be improved with movement but just as with healthy eating plans, there is no ‘one size fits all’. Understanding what will help you as an individual is vital. Understanding your own body (which means paying it more attention than you ever have done!) is key.
Pain, swelling and stiffness in a joint or joints are the main symptoms of arthritis. This condition affects the quality of life and work of an estimated 17.8 million people in the UK, which is well over a quarter of the population. If you are one of the many then I’m sure you already know which type of arthritis you have. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the degeneration of joint cartilage and of the bone underneath. Rheumatiod arthritis (RA) is inflammatory and an auto-immune condition.
While it might be difficult to move with arthritis or it may seem like it might make the condition worse, exercise is one of the best things you can do to improve your symptons. Thankfully this is now recognised in the health care industry. It is no wonder that I come across so many sufferers in my line of work.
There are various
programmes such as ESCAPE-pain (Enabling Self-management and Coping
with Arthritic Pain using Exercise) available but can be expensive. This one is around £650. The nearest location is Paignton and will be active soon. The programme is mentioned in the NHS Long Term Plan which is reassuring. It is a 6 week programme delivered in a group setting by a physiotherapist.
This the link if you want more information:http://www.escape-pain.org/
Exercise has a role to play in reducing pain and increasing functional movements.
Self management is probably the most practical way forward for most people. Here are some pointers:
- The focus should be on , mobility, flexibility, balance and strengthening exercises.
- Mobility exercises should be related to your daily activities.
- Remember, fitness is not only achieved in a fitness environment. Taking up more active daily living tasks can boost your movement tremendously.
- Sitting straight leg raises and stepping up and down onto a stair or box (not cardboard!) are great for regaining strength.
- Cardiovascular activities which do not aggravate the condition should be part of your plan. For example, swimming or walking (getting mildly out of breath is necessary I’m afraid). Both these and many others will help prevent high blood pressure and heart disease.
- It is common to ‘ache’ after exercise, especially if you are doing something new or have not been active for a while. Don’t panic! This is different to the pain experienced with long-term joint pain.
- This ‘ache’ is not an indicator of harm and may arrive a day or two after exercising.
- Avoid fast paced activities especially those with excessive changes of direction such as tennis and squash.
- If joint pain or swelling appears DO NOT STOP EXERCISING; instead reduce intensity or type of exercise.
The Young at Heart classes that I take are designed to be a non-drug therapy for people with all manner of disability alongside those who are in good health.
Some disabilities you can see and some you cannot. I don’t believe you can be a trainer of any value unless you bother to find out who suffers from what and how it affects them both physically and emotionally.
Some of you might feel your age is a disability in itself. This can be helped tremendously simply by taking part in a group activity and learning just how much you can do rather than what you can’t.
I always say that exercise is “a journey of discovery” (sorry if you have heard that from me many times already). Discovering an imbalance in your muscle strength, or a lack of balance that you were unaware of is all part of gearing up for the years ahead.
There is a lot of helpful advice and information that I could write about but I know that a human’s attention span is shorter than the time it has taken you to get this far, so….if you want to have a chat about any of this please contact me and I will be only too happy to help.
Our bodies are designed to move and who are we to argue with that!