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EXERCISE FOR ARTHRITIS

When you have arthritis, your joints hurt every time you move. When you wake up, your muscles and tendons are so stiff that you can barely get out of bed, but you force yourself to get up and as you keep on moving, the pain lessens and you can move a little faster.

Is your body trying to tell you something when you muscles and joints feel better after you start to move? Dr. Ronenn Roubenoff of Tufts University Medical School published a paper in the Journal of Rheumatology showing that rest worsens arthritis, and strength training helps to control the pain of arthritis.

Most people think that when they have arthritis, they are supposed to rest their muscles and joints, but resting is the worst thing that a person with arthritis can do. Arthritis means that the gears that are formed by cartilage in your joints are damaged, causing your joints to hurt. Resting weakens your muscles and makes your joints wobble even more when you walk. Your car works in a similar fashion. When your car goes over a bumpy road, the shock absorbers dampen the shock of each bump. When you walk or run, the cartilage in your joints act like rubber to absorb the shock. Resting weakens cartilage and increases its likelihood to break. Resting weakens muscles so they can't control the joint, allowing more wobble of the joints with each movement and therefore increasing cartilaginous damage.

People with arthritis should exercise, but they should not walk fast or run. When you walk or run, your foot stops moving suddenly when it hits the ground with a force that is transmitted up your leg to your knees and hips. This force can break cartilage. So people with arthritis should not run, walk fast, jump, or play tennis or basketball because the jarring breaks joints. On the other hand, these people can pedal a bicycle because pedaling is done in a smooth rotary motion that does not stop suddenly to jar and break the cartilage in joints.

People with arthritis should also lift weights because this strengthens muscles to stabilize joints, and strengthens cartilage to protect it from breaking. Ideally, everyone with arthritis should gain access to weight machines and be taught how to lift weights with proper form, in sets of ten, two or three times week. They should also pedal a bicycle several times a week. The combination of smooth continuous exercise on a bicycle and supervised weight lifting on a machine can help protect people with arthritis from further joint damage and reduce pain. Swimming, rowing or any other activities that use smooth motions can be substituted for cycling.

Journal of Rheumatology 2001

Checked 9/3/05

May 29th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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