It was on October 12 that World Osteoarthritis Day was celebrated all across the globe to raise awareness about this widespread but not widely spoken about condition. Though in India itself, osteoarthritis affects over a 180 million people, not many have been made aware of how to manage it in the early stages so that surgery doesn’t become the last resort as it worsens.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative musculoskeletal disorder categorized by joint pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced range of motion. While it can affect people of all ages, it is the foremost cause of disability in older adults. It causes a dent in their daily routines as it makes simple activities like walking, climbing stairs, gripping objects and lifting things difficult. The symptoms of osteoarthritis can aggravate upon high-impact activity or changing seasons, especially during the winters.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, one way to manage its symptoms is through exercise as it helps retain the flexibility of the joints. Some of the types of exercises beneficial to manage osteoarthritis are:
AEROBIC EXERCISES – Also known as endurance exercises, low-impact aerobic exercises are done over an extended period of time to improve cardiovascular health. Walking, jogging, swimming, etc. are examples of low-impact aerobic exercises. Research suggests that aerobic exercises help release endorphins which relieve pain by inhibiting the pain pathways. They also help tone the muscles that support the joints while also improving blood circulation. Another benefit of performing aerobics exercises is weight loss which is a risk factor for people suffering from or susceptible to osteoarthritis.
STRENGTH TRAINING – Also commonly known as weightlifting, strength training is said to have proven benefits against osteoarthritis joint pain and stiffness. Done with the use of weights, dumbbells, resistance bands and even your own body weight, undertaking strength training helps improve posture and mobility, improves bone density, increases stamina, aids weight loss and reduces muscle soreness and weakness and uplifts your mood to enhance your activity levels.
RANGE-OF-MOTION / FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES – One of the most severe effects of osteoarthritis is reduced flexibility and range of motion. Be it stretching to take something out of the topmost shelf in the kitchen or bending down to tie your shoelaces, stiffness and lessened flexibility can hamper your ability to do all these tasks. Hence, range of motion exercises which are exercises aimed at improving movement of a specific joint. Thesegentle flexibility exercises that can be done anywhere and at any time of the day to help strengthen muscles, reduce the pressure on joints and improve joint stability and flexibility.
WATER THERAPY / AQUATIC EXERCISES – Aquatic exercises are exercises performed in a pool under the assistance of a physiotherapist and are aimed at relaxation, rehabilitation and improving muscle strength. These are low-impact exercises and arebeneficial for osteoarthritis as they counteract gravity and bring about buoyancy to reduce weight and pressure on painful joints. This helps improve enduranceand strength thereby reducing pain and inflammation and increasing the flexibility and range of motion of the joints.
YOGA – Practising gentle yoga asanas helps reduce pain, increase function, enhance blood circulation and improve joint stability. Different types of postures, for example standing postures, could help increase strength to improve joint functioning and thus the overall quality of life.
Before you undertake any of these exercises, speak to your physician about the severity of your symptoms. Also, massage your joints with an Ayurvedic oil like Zandu Ortho Vedic Oil before and after you perform these exercises to ensure effective and long-lasting relief from your symptoms. If you are experiencing prolonged pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints, take the Zandu Osteoarthritis Online Self Test here. If your pain level is above 6, book a free consultation with a Zandu Physiotherapist here.