Exercise can help relieve arthritis symptoms. That may be surprising to some people. Too many people give in to the first twinges of pain and reduce their physical activity when they should follow a regular arthritis exercise program. Lack of physical activity is likely to increase the pain associated with joint arthritis and can lead to more rapid joint deterioration.
What is Arthritis?
There are more than 100 kinds of arthritis, but the two most common ones are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They develop for different reasons, but all arthritis can impact any joint in the body. Joint stiffness is one of the first arthritis symptoms soon to be followed by joint pain.
Osteoarthritis is often called the “wear and tear” arthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease that develops due to joint overuse. Cartilage that serves as cushioning tissue between bones in the joints becomes worn and breaks down. Pain occurs when the joint is used due to bones rubbing together, roughened cartilage, bone spurs that develop over time and sometimes inflammation of the joint lining.
This type of arthritis is particularly common in load-bearing joints. Knee arthritis, for example, afflicts millions of people due to aging, obesity and disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease. It is an inflammation disease in which the immune system attacks joints, causing thickening of the tissue lining the joint (synovium). RA can also harm organ linings. It too is very painful, but there can be alternating periods of inflammation and remission.
These are just two types of arthritis. The question “What is arthritis?” requires a more complicated answer than it seems at first. However, what is important to know is that there is an arthritis treatment for most types of arthritis, including knee pain conditions.
Exercise and the Joints
All joints need regular physical activity. Too many people feel the first twinge of joint pain associated with arthritis in the knee and want to sit down or avoid movement. That is usually the wrong thing to do because lack of joint use can increase joint pain and cause a whole new set of symptoms. They include:
- Lower production of synovium fluid that keeps the joint “oiled”
- Weakening of tendons and ligaments that support the joint
- Weakening of muscles near the joint
- Increased fatigue
- Weight gain that adds a heavier load on the joint
- Increased bone loss
- Loss of joint flexibility
Exercise benefits all types of arthritis. Instead of doing less physical activity in an attempt to control joint pain, a person should become more physically active.
Identifying the Source of Pain
Arthritis that is not managed can lead to disability. Though arthritis is one of the most common knee pain conditions, there are other joints frequently impacted by arthritis. Arthritis can lead to hip pain conditions and shoulder and arm pain conditions.
One of the first steps in managing arthritis is ensuring the cause of joint pain is pinpointed. Sometimes people assume joint pain is arthritis or have pain that does not seem to have a specific source. For example, hip pain conditions may actually be due to a lower back medical condition. Shoulder and arm pain conditions might be due to:
- Bursa sac swelling
- Inflamed tendons
- Bone spurs
- Pinched nerve in the shoulder or neck
- Broken bone
- Pulled muscle
Sometimes the doctor will do a facet joint injection to determine the true source of pain or to treat facet joints due to conditions like arthritis or degeneration. Facet joints are in the spine and enable spine flexibility.
Treating Arthritis with Physical Activity
The ideal arthritis treatment depends on the joint and type of arthritis involved. In millions of cases, patients are advised to increase physical activity or add moderate exercise to their routines, especially for knee arthritis. Patients enjoy the many benefits that exercise delivers and reduce the pain of arthritis. Recommended exercise routines will not worsen arthritis.
The Spine & Pain Clinic of North America (SAPNA) offers a full range of services and treatments for joint arthritis, including the facet joint injection. Pain management is a joint effort between the physician and the person suffering with arthritis. Together they can develop a plan for slowing the rate of joint degeneration and minimizing the pain.