Motion Exercises for Arthritis – How Can they Help?

Do you have stiff joints? Does your shoulders creak? Does the pain and swelling hinder your day-to-day activities? If this is true then you might be suffering from Arthritis! 

Arthritis is a group of 100 different disease symptoms which causes serious joint damage and bone degradation among the patients. Most of the elderly adults suffer from the symptoms of the disease. But it is not just the disease of the old! Even young individuals suffer from the debilitating effects of this disease.

Medications are available, but they are simply aim to ameliorate the symptoms. Complete cure for this disease is still not available. As a result, patients usually explore alternate therapy options in order to find relief from the pain and suffering.

Motion Exercise- What does it mean? And could it be helpful?

Most of the arthritic patients believe that exercise could be harmful for their joints and thus refrain from any kind of physical activity. Usually they are advised to take rest and avoid movement so as to prevent further damage. However this is not completely true! Sure, patients with arthritis must avoid strenuous exercises, but total inactivity could be extremely harmful for them too. Human joints are meant to cause movement.

For healthy joints, they must stay in a working condition. Movement strengthens the muscles surrounding the joints, nurtures the joint tissue by maintaining the flow of synovial fluid and improves flexibility. All these further assist in lowering the pain and swelling in the joints. Hence mild exercise is a must for all the arthritic patients until they are advised otherwise by their physician. It is mandatory for all the arthritic patients to consult their doctors to know about the type and amount of exercise that would suit their joints and then follow a daily routine for the same .

There are various forms of exercising options available like yoga, Tai chi, Pilates, cycling, walking, swimming, etc. But motion exercises form the backbone of all these forms. This form of exercising is highly recommended for the patients with arthritis as it involves moving the joints within their complete range of movement.

This form helps in keeping the joints supple and healthy without straining the body much. One can perform these exercises while sitting in a chair, or even while lying in their bed. Thus this is the safest, easiest and most effective exercises for patients with arthritis .

How does Motion exercises help me in my arthritis?

Motion exercises are of great help to the patients with arthritis. As it is exercising is good for every human being and we need not list its benefits. A daily exercise regime becomes even more important for arthritic patients owing to the added role that it plays in alleviating disease symptoms. The chief advantages of motion exercises for arthritis are listed below:

Improves muscle and joint strength
Arthritis, as we know, is a disease which leads to joint damage and stiffness. Hence it is of prime importance to make sure that the lost strength be regained. And this is possible by performing a range of motion exercises. Motion exercises ensures that the joint moves within its normal range of movement and in turn strengthens the muscles surrounding the joints. Strengthened muscles in turn support the joints thus enabling easier movement.

Strengthens bones and cartilage
A moving joint also facilitates strengthening of bones and cartilage surrounding them. With improved flow of synovial fluid and better blood circulation in the affected regions, bones and cartilage receive sufficient nourishment to stay healthy .

Improves balance and decreases fall
This is of prime importance for elderly adults. One of the common outcomes of arthritis among individuals is that they become more prone to tripping and falling due to loss of body balance. This is a result of weakened bones and muscles. Proper exercising ensure improved posture and body balance among the patients. Hence chances of falling get reduced significantly .

Controls weight
Overweight body makes arthritis more complicated and painful as the joints have to endure extra weight. The only way to overcome this is to reduce those extra pounds! And this is possible only through regular exercising. Motion exercises thus help in reducing weight and thus prevent the overburdening of the joints and muscles of the body .

Maintains healthy heart
Proper exercising is good for the health of the heart as well. Reduced cholesterol levels and improved blood circulation facilitate in improving the functioning of cardio-vascular system.

Decreased fatigue and depression
Patients with arthritis often complain of fatigue and depression. Stress is common among the patients as ill physical health directly affects our mental well-being as well. Exercise is a good way to stay away from these symptoms. With the help of exercise patients feel more optimistic and strengthened. They can also perform their daily activities with not much hindrance. All these factors helps reduce stress levels among the patients.

Improves sleep patterns
Sleep disruptions also to improve owing to exercise. With reduced stress levels and increased body activity, our normal biological clock gets reset thus enabling better sleep for the patients. This is an extremely welcome outcome as it means good rest for the brain and the body. Good 8 hour sleep is extremely beneficial for all the arthritic patients and motion exercises for arthritis treatmentexercise makes that possible .

Improved overall fitness.
Exercise is thus crucial for the overall fitness of the body. And patients with arthritis must indulge in some form of physical activity not only to relieve the symptoms of pain and inflammation but also to feel more rejuvenated and healthy .

Still sceptical? Take a look at scientific evidence!

Despite knowing the benefits of exercising, many patients do not find enough motivation to follow a regular regime. The fear of aggravating the pain and causing further damage is too pronounced.

But science proves that exercising can be anything but harmful in arthritis. And motion exercises are the easiest nd safest way to start and witness the positive effects of exercising. Motion exercises can be easily performed at home by taking out some 10-15 minutes from your work. No complex equipment or training is required to master these exercises.

A study in fact tested the efficacy of the home-based motion exercises among patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This study tested the effects of regular exercise on patients for a period of 12 weeks. The results thus proved that regular home exercises reduced pain and improved physical activity among patients. They were found to be helpful in mood elevation and feeling of self-efficacy among the patients which was an extremely positive sign

Another study reviewed the findings from studies conducted between 2000 and 2014 to conclude about the importance of hand exercises for treatment of hand rheumatoid arthritis. The common exercises included in most of these studies included active range-of-motion exercises and resistance exercise. The collective outcome of this review showed that hand exercises improved grip strength, aggravated disease symptoms and reduced pain among the subjects . 

Motion exercises are beneficial for people of all ages and having and form of arthritis. This fact was proven by a study conducted in 1999 on patients with osteoarthritis. This study recruited 113 men and women between the ages of 50 – 80 years that were diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis. The patients were divided in two groups. One group received a three times weekly regimen of isokinetic exercises of quadriceps muscles for a period of 8 weeks while the other group attended a series of lectures and discussions led by health care professionals for the same span.

At the end of the trial period, the joint strength, pain and functioning was tested. Both the groups demonstrated an increase in strength, but patients that received isokinetic exercise regime showed improved reduction in pain and overall joint functioning . The regimen was well-tolerated by all the elderly patients and thus could be safe for patients in their old age.

With the aim of taking pain as a parameter, a group of scientists tested the effectiveness of motion exercises among patients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. This study included a group of 53 female volunteers out of which; 18 were healthy, 16 suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and 19 suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and co-morbid fibromyalgia (CFS/FM).

All the patients underwent submaximal exercise test before and after taking pain medication and then the pain scores in each case were evaluated. The pain scores improved considerably among the patient population thus suggesting that exercise could be effective means in combating the pain. However the results were more encouraging for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and some inconsistencies were seen for those with CFS/FM. However with further investigations with a larger and more inclusive group these inconsistencies could be easily overcome .

Again long term exercises never harm the arthritic patients. A well-designed study tested the truth behind this fact as well. This study included 309 patients with arthritis who underwent intensive exercise over a period of two long years. The health determinants and disease symptoms were closely monitored during the entire span and it was found that prolonged exercise does not aggravate disease symptoms or joint damage .

Thus all these studies prove that our fears are usually ill-found. Motion exercises are safe, effective and can become a part of your daily routine without any harm. If adopted as a way of living, these exercises will only cause benefit in the long term.

What includes Motion Exercises for Arthritis?

Motion exercises are common exercises which must be performed in non-weight bearing position preferable while sitting or lying down in your couch. These are highly effective but mild form of exercises which are crucial for arthritic patients. In fact for these are the only set of exercises which are advised to be performed by the patients in instances of flare-ups during rheumatoid arthritis. Mainly these exercises could be classified as therapeutic or recreational.

The therapeutic exercises include the range-of-movement exercises recommended by your therapist. Most of the doctors do suggest some easy exercises as per the needs and disease condition of the patients. These exercises are safe and can be performed without much supervision.

Recreational exercises on the other hand are more fun and do not appear as a task as you can enjoy them with your family and friends. These might include anything ranging from a simple walk in the park to cycling or swimming. 

In either case patients must make sure that they do not work too hard. Just performing each movement within your comfortable limits should provide good results. Each motion exercise can be tailored as per the limits of your body. If your can perform a certain movement comfortably then you might repeat it 5 to 10 times. Otherwise 2-3 times should be enough. It is a gradual process and you should allow your body to take enough time to gather the strength and flexibility to perform all the movements properly. 

Some of the common motion exercises that you could perform daily are as follows:

Neck

  • Slowly move your head upwards while inhaling and hold that position for some time. Next move your head downwards while exhaling and stay in this position for some time again. Next without moving your shoulders or torso turn your head to the right and then to your left. Repeat this exercise for 2 to 3 times.

Arms and Shoulders. 

  • Sit upright in a chair and hold your arms forward with palms facing upwards. Next fold your fingers inwards to form a fist and hold this position for some times. Repeat it for 10- 15 times for improved grip strength. 
  • Next fold your arm at the elbow with your hand touching your shoulder. Then make imaginary circle in air. Repeat the process with other arm. 
  • For improved motion of the shoulders try practicing shoulder rolls for 5-10 times both clockwise and anti-clockwise.

Chest and Torso

  • Sit upright in a chair and tilt your torso to the right. Then come back to the centre. Next tilt on the other side and come back to the centre. Repeat this for a couple of times .

These are some basic exercises that could be practised. More help could be obtained through books and videos available on the subject or by discussion with your health care provider. However it is important to remember that this is just an alternate treatment and cannot replace your regular medication. You still need to maintain a healthy diet and have your medication regularly.

Also do not underestimate the power of proper education. Read about your condition, discuss with your doctor and educate yourself more and more in order to know your body and recognize your symptoms. With more informed patients, healthcare becomes lot easier. And above all, try and enjoy your exercise sessions to yield best results.

Precautions

Motion exercises are basically safe and can be performed easily by all the individuals but still some basic pointers are important to be kept in mind while exercising. First and most important thing to remember is that never overdo! Exercising is good for your joints, but overstressing could cause unnecessary damage.

Again, never try to push your joint beyond its comfortable limits. Due to arthritis, many joints become stiff and to bring them back in their complete range of motion, you need to invest time. If while performing an exercise your joint pains, then treat it as a warning sign and stop exercising. Try the movement the next day. Do not jerk or move too fast. The movements must be gentle and slow in order to avoid damage to the joints. Take deep breaths while exercising. And in case of doubt consult your doctor .

Summary

Arthritis is a painful condition but that does not mean that you cannot lead a normal life when suffering from this disease. Regular medication, proper diet and exercise are the key to normal living with arthritis. Motion exercises are the basic form of exercises recommended for all the arthritic patients.

These must be practised daily in order to maintain flexibility and muscle strength. Studies prove that this is a safe and effective way to monitor pain and other symptoms of the disease without causing any harm over prolonged period of time.

Thus if you have not included exercise in your daily routine, it’s time to do so. And motion exercises could be the best way to start!