Exercising with Osteoarthritis

How to Exercise with Arthritis

While there are two main types of arthritis, this article will focus on the types of exercises that are best for patients suffering from osteoarthritis.  First, let’s take a look at what osteoarthritis is, and what causes it.

Osteoarthritis of the kneeWhat is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is a condition that affects the joints within the body.  Common joints that can become afflicted include the knees, hips, fingers and toes.  As well, patients can experience osteoarthritis in the neck and shoulders.

So what causes this degeneration of the joints?  Well, each joint consists of bones and cartilage.  Cartilage is a smooth substance that helps to cushion the bones, and also helps the bones to move smoothly.  When the cartilage wears away, perhaps due to age or injury, the bones no longer have the cushioning they once did, and they begin to grind roughly on each other.  This condition is called osteoarthritis.

Along with the loss of cartilage, as the bones continue to grind against each other, bone spurs (bits of bone) may break off from the bones.  The result is pain, swelling and inflammation, and often times heat.

As noted above, osteoarthritis generally occurs with age, but can also be caused by certain injuries to the structures around the joint.  A common example is when someone experiences a knee injury such as a meniscal tear.  If the injury doesn’t heal properly, eventually, the patient may develop osteoarthritis due to improper movement of the joint.

Preventing Osteoarthritis

While some of our chiropractic patients are simply predisposed to osteoarthritis through heredity, there are certain things you can do to reduce your risk of developing this debilitating condition.

Proper diet and exercise are key.  Eating a healthy, well balanced diet that contains each of the food groups as recommended in the Canada Food Guide, will help to ensure strong healthy bones and joints.  In particular, a diet rich in calcium is beneficial, as the bones are largely made up of calcium.  Keeping the bones working properly within the joints will help to prevent injuries and degeneration of the cartilage.

There are also many supplements available today that will help maintain the health of your bones and joints.  Check with your doctor or pharmacist first, then look for products that contain calcium, glucosamine, and chondroitin.

Exercise is also key to preventing osteoarthritis.  Leading an active lifestyle that includes regular exercise, even if you just walk for twenty to thirty minutes each day, will keep your joints working smoothly.

Exercising With Osteoarthritis

While most patients that we see at our Vancouver chiropractic clinic, who suffer from osteoarthritis feel that exercise might exacerbate their symptoms – pain, swelling, fatigue – exercise will in fact have quite the opposite effect.  Not only will it help to strengthen your bones and muscles, it will give you an energy boost, lead to weight lost, and generally improve the quality of your life.  Think of your body as your car – if you leave it sitting idle for too long, the engine components may seize up.  The same goes for your body!

That said, there are certain types of exercise that should be avoided, and certain types that are idea for patients suffering from osteoarthritis.

Exercises to Avoid

It’s important to avoid any types of exercise that involve high impact.  These include things like running or jogging, skipping rope, bouncing on a trampoline, most types of aerobics, and any other types of exercise that cause the joints to experience jarring.

The Right Types of Exercise for Osteoarthritis

The best types of exercises for osteoarthritis involve things like weight bearing cardio work, stretching, muscle strengthening, range of motion, and flexibility exercises.

Here are the best types of exercise to help you stay healthy, and reduce your symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

Swimming for OsteoarthritisSwimming

Swimming is one of the best types of exercise for patients with osteoarthritis.  Because there is no impact to the joints while in the water, you will be able to get your heart rate up a little bit, without suffering any pain.  Many patients report that with twice weekly water aerobics sessions, they are able to feel more flexible, lose a bit of weight, and have a lot of fun while doing it!


Cycling is an excellent form of low impact exercise that will get your heart going!  For most patients with osteoarthritis, the use of a recumbent bike works best, because there are no kills or bumps.  Just twenty minutes each day will help keep you strong and limber.

Brisk walking

While brisk walking might sound painful to those people with osteoarthritis of the knees, it’s actually good for the joints.  Just twenty minutes each day will help keep your knee joints well lubricated and working smoothly.

Muscle Strengthening

Doing light weight lifting is an excellent way to keep the muscles around the joints strong and healthy.  Just don’t over do it – in fact, if you are able to find a Pilates class in your neighborhood, your body will thank you by becoming lean and limber, which will help all of your joints work better.  Yoga is another form of exercise that has proven to be very beneficial for patients with osteoarthritis.

Combining all of the above types of exercises into a tailored workout routine will boost your results.  Not only will your body become stronger, but your joints will get the activity they need to prevent them from seizing up and becoming more painful.

Chiropractic Options

As you can see, there are still certain types of exercises that you can do to help reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis.  In addition to taking care of yourself, the Chiropractors at BROADWAY AT YEW Chiropractic & Massage offer a wide range of treatment options.

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