Posted by: thehungryrunner | June 4, 2010

Fighting Arthritis Pain? A great website to keep you moving!

As much as I love to gush about the highs (OK and lows) of running, I am also well aware that there are many people who find themselves restricted from enjoying their own favorite activities — running or otherwise, due to the pain of osteoarthritis.  It’s heartbreaking to me, as part of the joy of my work comes from watching people get active, to see the light in their eyes and the spring in their step as a result.  So anytime I come across a new tool or resource to help the above happen in spite of an arthritis diagnosis, I’m eager to make use of it and pass it along to my students, clients, Flexibility Coach members and readers.

With that in mind, I have just learned of a marvelous website, FightArthritisPain.org, which offers solutions to keep you moving even if you’re struggling with osteoarthritis.  I’ll elaborate more on it shortly, but since we’re on the subject, I want to spend a moment talking about what you can do to stay active, based on my own experiences as a fitness professional.  Probably not surprisingly, in my work as a Flexibility Coach, personal trainer, exercise physiologist and yoga instructor, I have worked with countless students and clients who suffer from the disease to varying degrees.  And while obviously the first step in managing the pain and keeping the body agile must start with your doctor, I have found some reliable solutions to help prevent further problems, and to maximize your strength, flexibility, and mobility with the body you currently have.  You are NOT destined to become immobile and sedentary, that’s the good news!

But it does take work, a positive attitude, and a keen respect for your body’s comfort zone — including the willingness to make adjustments based on how you’re feeling on any given day (note that’s different from bowing out of the workout altogether).  Here are some examples of what has made a big difference for my clients and students over the years:

(Just a reminder, this advice should only be considered after running it by your doctor, and if your doctor or therapist feels you should follow a different path, be sure to follow your doctor or therapist, as they know your body and needs best.)

  • Start slowly but work consistently:  Even if all you can do are 5-10 minutes of exercise or stretching at a time, that counts and can be extremely helpful, but you’ll find you make more noticeable progress if you can commit to 3-4 short workouts a week, or better yet, on a daily basis.
  • If possible, start with movements that don’t involve the affected part(s) of your body:  If your arthritis is primariy centered in your knees, look into stretches and exercises that work your upper body, your core, and your low back.  This can build confidence and help you to see the vast selection of movements you can still perform safely, well, and comfortably.
  • Consider swimming, biking or other minimal-impact activities:  These forms of exercise can help you establish a good cardiovascular fitness base, without putting stress on your joints.  Once this base is established, you can look into other forms of cardio, adding them gradually to see how your body reacts.
  • Learn about exercises and stretches that strengthen and provide mobility to the muscles surrounding your arthritic joint(s):  You may or may not be able to reverse the damage and inflammation to the joint itself — your doctor can help determine this, but you certainly can and should look into providing support to the joint by ensuring the muscles that surround it are in the best possible working condition.  Typically, this won’t involve a great deal of resistance or intensity, especially at first; instead, you want to start with some light, high-quality, carefully executed movements (a group of 4-8 exercises and/or stretches is a good start), and monitor your comfort closely both during and after the workout.  As you establish a collection of what works, you can build from there — either add repetitions or additional sets of the same exercise or tweak them to make them more challenging.

Now, back to the Fight Arthritis Pain website.  One of the reasons I think so highly of both the website and the campaign itself, is that it simplifies what can normally be a very overwhelming task of figuring out how to get started with exercise when you’re suffering from osteoarthritis.  In fact, frankly, putting together a fitness program can be daunting even with a fully healthy body, so the helpful hints and guidance they offer can even be useful for those who don’t have the disease and yet would like to become more active.  This is particularly great because no doubt there are people out there who have osteoarthritis, yet whose spouse does not.  So if you both are looking into ways to add exercise to your life, you can both use and benefit from the same information on the website!

To help get you started, I’m pasting three links that got my attention in particular:

I hope you find this resource helpful and hope you will check it out for yourself.  If you take away nothing else from this entry from The Hungry Runner, it’s that movement CAN help you fight your arthritis pain!  I know because I’ve witnessed countless of my students and clients experience this very phenomenon!

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Responses

  1. I have not gone to the recommended site yet……But, I will and I am so happy to see support for exercise for people with arthritis. I suffer from another form of arthritis- psoriatic arthritis. After each of my children, my knees would swell up so big that the doctors would call other doctors over to show them how much liquid was drained……there was literally no explanation for it…
    I did not become a runner until after my 3rd child at age 39 (now 43). Because of the arthritis i have, i though i would never be a runner. I started running just to compete in a sprint triathlon with my brothers…my original goal was just to get through the run in some way….even if it was a lot of walking…..turns out…i got addicted to running. I started with a book that I highly recommend-The Beginning runners Handbook. It made it okay for me to learn to run through slowly increasing my mileage and the amount of the ratio of running to walking….I followed the program pretty regularly and it made running so much less daunting….I had this vision that being a runner must mean certain things….I was soooo wrong……one of the coolest things about running is the variance in speeds and people…….

    http://www.amazon.com/Beginning-Runners-Handbook-13-Week-Walk-Run/dp/1553650875/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1325345390&sr=8-15

    So, i accomplished my goal of making it through the triathlon…but then I wanted to start doing running events…….and so i continued running…….

    Now, I have added quite a few others things to my regimen- biking, strength training, plyometrics and a little yoga……. (need to do a lot more).

    I have been a tennis player for a long time and my knees no longer limit me.

    The cross training has also done amazing things for my endurance…up

    Anyhow..my whole point to this is….now., I find that as long as I run a couple of times a week, my arthritis stays in remission….i am not saying this works for everyone…but it has been a godsend for me…..and it is so counter to what i was told by doctors all around.so i am NOT telling you that it will work for you…i am just saying that you should not limit yourself….let your body tell you what will work and what won’t…and definitely start out whatever you are interested in…SLOWLY and don’t undervalue cross training………. Not a week goes by that I don’t run..sometimes it is 3x a week, sometimes it is just 2..sometimes it is sprint repeats or hill workouts, sometimes it is long endurance runs….but bottom line..i always….somehow , someway run.. and I always do one or two other things during the week……it keeps me sane (or at least as close as I can get).

    Now..i need to work on my eating..so i am looking forward to following this site.


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