Understanding Arthritis

The word Arthritis literally means joint inflammation ( arth=joint; itis = inflammation). It refers to more than 100 different diseases or conditions that affect the joints and the tissues around the joints, such as muscles and tendons. Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Lupus, also can affect other parts of the body, including the skin and internal organs. About 66 million ( or one in every three) Americans have arthritis or a related condition. People with Arthritis face many challenges as a result of the disease, but the good news is there are many ways to meet those challenges and lead a fulfilling life.

What can Exercise do for me?

Exercise is good for almost everyone. For many years it was thought that people with Arthritis should not exercise because it would damage their joints. Now doctors and therapists know that is not true. If you have Arthritis or a related condition exercise can help:

Keep your joints flexible and independent
Keep the muscles around your joints strong
Prevent further deterioration of the bone and cartilage
Improve your ability to do daily activities
Improve your modd and fight off depression
Improves your overall health and fitness by:
giving you more energy
helping you sleep better
controlling your weight
making your heart stronger
decreasing depression
improving your self – esteem and sense of well being
The Main Types of Exercises

People with Arthritis often benefit from a balanced exercise program including different types of exercise. Three main types of exercise should be included in your exercise program are range of motion, strengthening and endurance exercises.

Range of Motion Exercises

Range of motion exercises ( ROM) exercises reduce stiffness and help keep your joints flexible – something that can help you carry out your activities of daily living. The ” range of motion” is the normal amount your joints can be moved in certain directions. These exercises are best done in a non weight bearing position such as lying on your couch or bed. If your joints are very painful and swollen, your range of motion maybe limited. Move them slowly through their full range of motion. Ensure that you place emphasis on achieving the end range of each joint. You may be able to compare this range to the joint on the other side if it is normal or does not have Arthritis.

You should try to do these exercises daily. Before beginning, perform a quick check of your joints, from head to toe, to determine which ones are stiff. Exercise the joints that are stiffest. Do at least one set of three to 10 repititions a day.

Strengthening Exercises

Isometric exercises and isotonic exercises are two different kinds of strengthening exercises. They are beneficial because they help maintain or increase muscle strength. Strong muscles help keep your joints stable and protected. Strengthening exercises must be carefully designed for people with Arthritis. Your physical therapist, occupational therapist and/or doctor can let you know what may be right for you. For increasing physical fitness, these types of exercises are generally done every other day. If a doctor or physical therapist recommends you to do theses exercises or ROM exercises, they may instruct you to perform them multiple times a day.

Isometric Exercises

In these exercises, you tighten your muscles but do not move your joints. These exercises allow you to build your muscles without moving painful joints. The illustration below shows an example of an Isometric Exercise.

This exercise strenthens the muscles that bend and straighten your knee. Sit in a stright-backed chair and cross your ankles. Your legs can almost be straight, or you can bend your knees as much as you like. Push forward with your back leg and press backward with your front leg. Exert pressure evenly so that your legs do not move. Hold this position and count out loud for 6 to 10 seconds. Relax. Then change leg positions and repeat.

Isotonic Exercises

In these exercises, you move your joints through a range of motion to strengthen muscles against some form of resistance. Resistance to motion can come from gravity, a resistance band, light barbell or cuff weight. ( You should begin slowly with little resistance, using no more than one or two pound weights.) Also, exercise in water can help strengthen muscles because water adds both assistance and resistance to your movements.

This exercise strengthens your thigh muscle. Sit in a chair with both feet on the floor and spread them slightly apart. Raise one foot until your leg is as straight as you can make it. Hold this position and count out loud for 6 to 10 seconds. Gently lower your foot to the floor. Relax. Repeat with your other leg. Do two sets of three to 10 repetitions for each leg.


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