Bone & joint health Fitness Wellness

You can be active with arthritis

Person getting active on the trails

You’ve got arthritis. Painful joints, stiffness and inflammation.

But don’t let that be an excuse to be sedentary. Being active may actually help ease some of the symptoms.

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. Joints may become damaged over time and can lead to increased pain and decreased function.

It’s a common misconception that a diagnosis of arthritis means hanging up your running shoes and packing away your tennis racquet. But there are many ways you can modify your activities, find new activities and stay active with arthritis.

“Physical activity does not worsen arthritis. Physical activity can help manage arthritis!” says physiotherapist Suzanne Denis. “It can make everyday day activity easier as well as provide many other health benefits.”

Suzanne has some tips for living active with arthritis:

Stand up! Research is pointing toward the importance of being active, whether or not you have arthritis. Sitting too much isn’t good for your arthritis. And it’s not good for your overall health either.

Find middle ground. If you have lower extremity arthritis, some load bearing is good for bone density, but too high impact might be painful. Try something in the middle: activities in water, cycling, Tai Chi, some light running. Doubles tennis. Golf. Curling with an extender.

Avoid activity that’s too intense.  Also avoid activities that have twisting, high speed uncontrolled movements (like singles tennis) forcing end range of movement, or kneeling (though not everyone has difficulty with that). Avoid only if painful or modify (with a kneeling pad or towel rolled under shin)

Hot or cold? “You can use heat before your activity to warm up your joints,” she says. “If your joint is red or swollen, don’t use heat.” After activity, if you have some swelling or your joint feels warm, use ice for 10 minutes, Suzanne says. There’s no hard and fast rule. “You have to find out what works for you.”

Talk to your doc about anti-inflammatory medicines. Check with a doctor before using any oral anti-inflammatory medications. There are many topical anti-inflammatories that can also be considered.

If you have been inactive, talk to your health care provider or seek the help of a physiotherapist before adding activity into your life.

About the author

Alexis Dobranowski

Alexis Dobranowski is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.