Intro to Arthritis – Exercise is the Best Medicine

Let’s start at Arthritis.

Arthritis is one of those things that literally means there is swelling and tenderness in our joints. It is often accompanied with pain and stiffness.

To put it simply, you wake up one day and you just sort of start feeling old.

And it happens to everyone. It’s inevitable. But you know what is the absolute best thing you can do for that pain? Other than popping pills to mask any semblance of personality??

Moving.

People with arthritis will always tell you the pain and swelling is worse in the morning (Or when it’s about to rain, but that’s a different story). It’s worst when you’ve been sitting around for hours. Wasting away at a desk. After a long drive. After waking up in the early morning.

Your body literally needs movement to help shuttle away the inflammation that has pooled in your body overnight. And although it may be hard to get those rusty joints moving, it is the absolute best thing for you.

That said, with arthritis let’s start with caution. You don’t want to begin by running (unless you know it doesn’t bug you). Too many people in our world run to get in shape, only to find it ends up setting us back far more than any progress we can make in a single run. You want to listen to your body – if you begin exercising and something keeps getting worse a few minutes after you start – STOP! There is not a lot to gain from ‘pushing through the pain’ that our favorite TV commercials spout on about. When you put your hand on a hot stove, you wouldn’t ‘push through’ as your skin melts off your skeleton. So don’t take an oath to make life suck more by pushing through. I’m talking long term.

So, let’s say you come to me with arthritis and want to figure out what to do to improve that arthritic pain, let me break it down.

Exercise for Arthritis – With anything, you gotta be cognizant. Start slow and easy with what I’ll call general movement.

General movement exercises are low impact. And that’s a generic term for easy on the joints, in case you’re not a nerd.

I always want to stress – there are progressions and regressions to each and every exercise. So because your Doctor tells you that you can never run/walk/bike again, take that with a grain of salt. You CAN. And that just gives you more incentive to prove that ‘medical professional’ wrong. You just have to be responsible in building back up.

Low impact exercise creates less pounding on your joints. Don’t begin with explosive movements right off the bat, nothing that generates high forces quickly (ie, running, jumping, throwing, bouncing, hopping, skipping, etc).

Start with lower impact stuff. Things that move your joints relatively freely without tons of banging and clanging. Take a walk, go for a swim or a leisurely hike through the woods. If you’re in the gym setting, opt for yoga flow, or a class based around mobility as a lot of the group classes can be surprisingly high impact (looking at you, Zumba). Opt for walking over running. Using the stairs is actually a heck of a good low impact exercise. And in this world, I personally would prefer a hike or walk…because outside. And outside stuff makes me happy.

Low impact exercise increases your heart rate. Good to increase muscle temperature, fluidity of movement and improve recovery.

Bonus points for something that takes your body’s joints through their functional range of motion, while also increasing range of motion. In nerd speak, I call them CARs, that is, Controlled Articular Rotations. And the idea behind them is literally mobilizing your body’s major joints to increase the temperature and taking the rusty joints through a range that your body can handle.

An example of Spinal CARs

And Diamond CARs for your Shoulders

Next, I want to stress the importance of strength training.

Strength training important for so many things – but to me, the most important is that it helps maintain the integrity of a joint. Here is where I drop some nerdy stuff here about tensegrity and tension related around the axis of our joints.

So, depending on where your body has arthritic pain, we would devise a plan to increase strength around the joints that primarily bug your body.

I would make sure to include full body movements, as well as a few isolated movements to truly target the impacted regions of the body. And to hold true to the above statements – we want to start our strength in a controlled environment. Start with low impact strength and balance before plyometrics and high impact movement.

A generic template for strength – perform each exercise for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. Hit me with some questions if you want to dive deeper for YOU. I’ll also include a typical progression if you follow a consistent schedule:

  • Squat – Bodyweight squats, progressing to goblet squats
  • Hinge – Lying Hip bridges, progressing to Romanian deadlifts
  • Lunge – Stepups, progressing to walking lunges
  • Push – Pushups, progressing to bench press or overhead presses
  • Pull – Bent over Ys, Ts, Is, progressing to bent over rows
  • Gait/Core – Plank variations (front, side, reverse), progressing to loaded carries

In summation, with arthritis move more. Aim for 30 minutes daily. Do something you enjoy. It’ll be easier to keep going that way. Get up and take your body through some CARs. Shoulders, hips, knees, scapulae, neck. Mess around with your major joint locations. Let google be your friend. You WILL see benefit from strength improvements.

Arthritis sucks but it can be managed. Be willing to adapt, and unwilling to sit back and wait because there’s too much awesome stuff to do in our world. And if you have any questions or want to spitball some ideas shoot me an email at mwguastella@gmail.com.

With love,

Mike Goose

Published by mikeg00se

I like to adventure, paint portraits of goats and love family stuff.

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