Arthritis Self Management: What You Need to Know
Arthritis is all around us, yet its impact on individuals, family members, friends and country as a whole is far greater than most people realize
Arthritis is not only a disease of the elderly anymore. Although it is normal for cartilage to wear and tear with age giving rise to joint pain still the rising incidence of early onset of arthritis amongst young Indians is a cause of worry. Sedentary lifestyle, long hours of sitting on computer, less exposure to sunlight, vitamin deficiency, increased consumption of sugary foods, alcohol and cigarettes, rising obesity amongst young population all resulting in the rise of arthritis.
Although there are many types of arthritis, the most commonly seen are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis, while Osteoarthritis affects body parts which carry our weight like knees, spine and hips, the Rheumatoid arthritis mostly affects wrist fingers and feet. Lifestyle plays a prominent role in this and therefore diet, exercises and mobility are key to the management of arthritis. Since the knee is one part which bears maximum weight Knee problems are, unsurprisingly, very common. After all, the knee is the largest joint in the body and is responsible for bending and straightening your legs!
It is a common misconception that bad knees mean you are unable to exercise. In fact, professionals insist that it is crucial to stay active to strengthen the supporting muscles and to prevent any issues from getting worse. But as always, there are movements you should avoid. Good news though, there are plenty of safe exercises that do not strain the knee joint! Here are the Do’s And Don’ts to keep in mind when dealing with knee troubles:
Walking is a perfect low-impact activity that does not require equipment. Start with what you can handle and gradually build up to 20-30 minutes a day and your knees will thank you!
-Warm Up and Stretch:
You never want to jump right into an exercise routine without warming up your muscles or else you are just asking for injury. Before any exercise, take a few minutes to slowly walk a couple laps to stretch out your legs. This will get your muscles warm and reduce discomfort.
-Exercise in Water:
Exercising in water is a great way to move around with less pain due to water’s buoyant properties. In other words, water helps you float, making you lighter and relieving your joints of carrying your body weight.
-Try Knee-Friendly Exercise Equipment:
There are plenty of options in the gym that put very little stress on your knees. For example, try out a stationary or recumbent bike or the elliptical to get some good cardio into your routine!
-Work to Strengthen Your Supporting Muscles:
Think of the muscles around your knee as a natural knee brace. The two main muscle groups that support the knee are the quadriceps and the hamstrings. Focus on strengthening these two large muscle groups to create better support for your knee joints. Some beneficial exercises include: straight leg raises and (safely!) walking backward.
-Consider Contacting a Professional:
Whether it be an exercise or yoga instructor, a professional can provide you with appropriate exercises and stretches, also a physical therapist can diagnose unhealthy movement patterns. These trained professionals have invaluable knowledge on how to set you up for success, and eventually, lessen your pain!
-Don’t Participate in High-Impact Activities If It Aggravates Knee Pain:
Most activities that include running, sudden stopping, jumping, and frequent turns put compromised knees at risk of further damage. Some of these include sports such as tennis, soccer, football, and basketball. It is not the case that you are forbidden to participate in these activities but be mindful of your movements and protect your knees!
-Don’t Exercise on Hard Surfaces:
If you have a choice, take a walk in the grass or a dirt path. Concrete or asphalt lack shock absorption, and therefore, increase pressure on the knees when walking or running. Treadmills are arguably a good alternative, but even among these, there are good options and bad ones too. Focus on the shock absorption!
-Don’t Do High-Load Exercises:
These exercises, such as full squats, leg presses, and lunges, can increase pain. While they require you to bend your knees beyond the natural 90-degree angle, they also put excessive pressure on the joint. Also, these exercises, in particular, are often done with improper form, which can cause further injury.
-Don’t Overlook Your Weight:
Just being overweight adds stress on your knees. Even small changes make a significant difference on the load your knees carry.
-Don’t Wear Worn-Out Shoes:
Shoes that do not fit properly, or are worn out, affect the way you walk. If the way you walk is compromised, it distributes extra pressure for your knees to bear and, in turn, increases stress on them. Cushioned insoles, or shoes that are specially shaped for your foot, are the best options to reduce knee pain.
-Don’t Overdo It!
As always, never skip a rest day. Your knees need time to recover from any kind of exercise regime
A worrying factor is the increasing prevalence of arthritis amongst women. In urban India, women are increasingly shouldering dual responsibility of homemaker as well as a professional. Therefore they are increasingly getting exposed to the new risks due to lack of time and motivation. Therefore awareness is a must. Although if one is diagnosed with arthritis, he/she can still exercise as mobility is one of the key factors in the management of arthritis and should be done under the proper guidance of an expert.
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