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Can Exercise Help My Arthritis?

Wednesday, 05 Mar 2014 09:38 AM

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Question: I have degenerative arthritis. Will exercise help ease the pain?

Dr. Hibberd's answer:

Degenerative arthritis is best managed with the least toxic and least invasive treatments, as it really is a result of the aging process. Anti-inflammatory and disease-modifying agents are not used for this condition because of adverse risks. Appropriate treatment will depend upon which joints are involved.

It may be that doing certain exercises are a better way to treat arthritis pain than any medication. If at all possible, maintain your mobility, otherwise joints tend to freeze up when ranges of motion are reduced.

Consider an aggressive physiotherapy program to return any lost range of motion, and selected joint injection if necessary.

Use heat and ultrasound can also be used to make you feel comfortable, and whirlpool baths are often useful. Most doctors recommend adults use a 500 milligram Tylenol dose up to three times a day for pain management, but chronic anti-inflammatory use is rarely necessary unless you have the less common variety of inflammatory osteoarthritis.

Sometimes chondroitin is helpful and in cases where cartilage has been lost, selective joint injection may work. If a weight-bearing joint is involved, aqua therapy can be useful and you should minimize high-impact exercises that stress affected joints. If you have osteoarthritic knees, for instance, you might want to avoid running and try substituting cycling or swimming instead).

Above all, be sure you understand the arthritic process and what can and cannot be done about it. If you have more questions than your regular doctor can answer, ask for a referral to a rheumatologist for further consultation and advice.

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