The gentle activity that is ‘extremely helpful’ for arthritis
Instructions for Osteoarthritis sufferers to massage pain spots
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Left unmanaged, osteoarthritis can become excruciating. The condition is when your cartilage – a firm but slippery substance that lets your joints move freely – breaks down gradually. Eventually, cartilage can wear down so that the bones rub on each other. Exercise, as well as a cocktail of painkillers, is one of the best ways to treat the condition.
For older people with osteoarthritis, or those with a severe version of the disease, the simpler the exercise the better.
If this is you, one exercise you might want to try is the “dining chair” exercise, where you carefully stand up while focusing on controlling the movement.
But another gentle exercise that can help is pilates. A leading physiotherapist told Express.co.uk that the activity can be an “extremely helpful” tool for managing osteoarthritis.
Phil Evans, who was an official physiotherapist at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and is Urban Body’s lead physiotherapist, said: “Movement gets the blood flowing, which is our best and most natural form of anti-inflammation.
“Pilates, in particular, is extremely helpful because it focuses on both flexibility and full body strength, which helps balance out your joints.”
Pilates, named after Joseph Pilates, works on improving your core muscles which are necessary to keep your spine in healthy alignment.
Unlike activities such as running, it doesn’t put pressure on the cartilage surrounding your joints.
The activity primarily focuses on getting perfect movements by carefully controlling muscles as you move.
It also helps to lengthen the muscles and increase flexibility – something that can help to lubricate your joints and improve their range of motion.
Talking about the benefits of exercises like Pilates, Evans said: “In the absence of strength and stability, your body will compensate.
“The structures around your joints will contract to make your joints stiff and tighter in an attempt to give your joints the stability they are lacking.
“But arthritic joints don’t want to be stiff and tight, they want to be free and mobile! If you suffer from arthritis, it’s critical that you have good mobility and strength. In summary, the most important thing you can do to improve your arthritis symptoms is to keep moving, and you will move better when you’re strong and flexible.”
Another exercise that Evans recommends is walking as the “easiest” and “most practical” way to get “healthy movement daily”.
He also recommends yoga and Tai Chi, because like Pilates “these allow you to use your limbs and joints in a full range of movements to complement the cardiovascular activities”.
One study, published in The Journal of Rheumatology, encourages a group of people to practice Tai Chi for 12 weeks.
Compared to another group who were similar to them but received standard arthritis treatment – those who undertook Tai Chi reported 30 percent less pain.
They also reported feeling an improvement of 30 percent in their ability to carry out daily activities.
Tai Chi sees people doing it get into different postures that flow from one to another.
Mayo Clinic explains: “Tai Chi has many different styles. Each style may subtly emphasize various tai chi principles and methods.
“There are variations within each style. Some styles may focus on health maintenance, while others focus on the martial arts aspect of Tai Chi.”
Mild symptoms of arthritis can be managed in several other ways other than doing exercise.
Losing weight if you’re overweight can help, as well as wearing suitable footwear.
But those with more serious forms of osteoarthritis may need to consume painkillers.
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