Workout Happily with Arthritis
Mr. Chen who was retired went to the park to practise qigong every day without fail until the recent one week. His friends who practised together went to visit him and found him sitting on the chair, frowning.
“Chen, you haven’t come to practise qigong for a while. Everyone misses you,” said Grandmum Wong.
“Well, doctor diagnosed me with osteoarthritis. I’m afraid to exercise now so I had to sit at home every day,” said Mr. Chen while pointing to his swollen knee.
Can you exercise with osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is due to the long-term inflammation and wear to tear to the cartilage on the end of the bones. There is a possibility of osteoarthritis to any joints. It occurs most often in knees, and secondly the lumbar spine. The typical syndrome is patient will feel uncomfortable to the joints after long period of inactivity. This is the stiffness after resting. In fact, the uncomfortable feeling can be reduced with low degree of activities. However excessive activities will cause acute pain.
Should the patients reduce or stop exercising?
Exercise does increase the wear and tear on the joint. A lot of arthritis patients thought that they will feel uncomfortable after exercising, so they are reluctant to do anything but sit. They have minimal movements throughout the day until when they try to move a little, they find it more difficult than usual. Under such unhealthy circumstances, the patients’ physical fitness will become worse. Lacking of exercise will also lead to heart and lung function decline.
Scientists have discovered that astronauts in the space are often diagnosed with osteoporosis and thinning cartilage because there is no gravity in space and lacking of exercise. This is because the bone cells and chondrocytes need to be stimulated by pressure. Losing that pressure might cause the cells to lose its normal function. Moderate exercise can stimulate the chondrocytes and helps with blood circulation to deliver the intake of hyaluronic acid, collagen and other substance to the joints. Thus, arthritis patients should maintain their habit to exercise, but pay attention to the type of exercise that they are doing.
How to start appropriate exercise?
Let’s take walking as an example. Doctor suggested that to enjoy two hours of walking to enhance the cardiopulmonary function and improve the metabolism without hurting the joints, it might be better to break the period into several sessions. To our heart, continuous movement of 1 hour and 2 hours are the same. However this is not the case with our joints. The cartilage is just like a sponge, it is flexible when it absorbs enough water. However after walking for 2 hours, the joints became dry and flat, resulting to more friction and vibration. The best way is to take a rest every half an hour to relax and re-saturate the joints with enough water before continuing to move.
In addition the patients can also choose some exercise that cause less burden to the joints, such as stretching, muscle strengthening, swimming, cycling, moderate tai chi, qigong and yoga. But beware, the goal of each exercise is different, you must find out what each individual needs. When the joints are in pain and swelling, do not overdo it. The patients should rest and reduce activity. Then start again after the pain is relieved.