Expert advice: Exercising can protect joints from damage

WHEN promoting the Great North Fitness Revolution I feel it is important to consider all those who want to exercise and improve their fitness but may be hampered by pain and stiffness in their hip and knee joints due to a common condition called osteoarthritis.

Martin Kay of Pier Physiotherapy Clinic

WHEN promoting the Great North Fitness Revolution I feel it is important to consider all those who want to exercise and improve their fitness but may be hampered by pain and stiffness in their hip and knee joints due to a common condition called osteoarthritis.

‘Osteo’ means bone and ‘arthritis’ means joint damage and inflammation. OA is often termed ‘wear and tear’ of the joints by clinicians.

Osteoarthritis is by far the most common joint disease, with knee and hip osteoarthritis affecting 10-20% of people aged over 65. Often patients have said to me that if their pain is due to osteoarthritis, is it not detrimental to their joints if they continue to exercise on them? This is a common discussion as it may be painful to exercise at times if you do indeed suffer with OA.

Exercise in moderation is however an essential component of maintaining the health of a joint and is important in ensuring that you continue to be as active as you wish to be.

In order to continue to exercise with osteoarthritis you need to help yourself as much as possible. For instance, try to lose some weight if necessary. Shedding those extra pounds will reduce the stress through your joints. Wear appropriate cushioned footwear throughout the day (not only when you exercise). Try to avoid exercising too hard on days when the joints are painful as this will de-motivate you. Finally it is important the exercise you do choose to undertake is ‘little and often,’ as too much exercise will cause pain and inflammation.

It is important to keep osteoarthritic joints moving as they tend to stiffen up with a lack of activity. What exercise you decide to undertake depends on what you may enjoy or indeed what you’re capable of. For some individuals, walking or cycling in moderation may be sufficient to increase their heart rate and improve joint mobility.

For those who struggle to weight-bear through their joints, swimming or an aqua aerobics class will prove a very good way of keeping fit without causing as much pain. The water within the pool will support your body weight and reduce the forces through the joints.

The message I wish to get across is that individuals with hip and knee pain caused by wear and tear in the joints need not be concerned exercise is damaging the joints further. In fact, it is generally considered important that exercise is undertaken as it protects the joints from the damage caused by inactivity and allows you to remain as functional as you wish to be.

:: Martin Kay works at Pier Physiotherapy Clinic in Whitley Bay and South Shields and works in partnership with David Fairlamb Fitness.

 
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