Exercise Eases Arthritis Pain and Improves Function

It’s not uncommon for people over 50 to begin experiencing some joint pain from general wear and tear – perhaps made worse by carrying a few extra pounds.   The knees often take the brunt of the damage leading to osteoarthritis that may cause pain, tenderness, and stiffness.  But while our natural inclination is to rest when we experience discomfort, studies show that specific forms of exercise can not only offer arthritis pain relief but also help improve balance and flexibility, reducing the risk for falls. 

According to a recent McMaster Optimal Aging Portal post, as the cartilage in joints wears down, especially in our knees, many older adults become sedentary or develop gait problems.  When joints become stiff, people with knee osteoarthritis can develop balance and walking issues that can increase the chances of having a fall.  Injury from falls is leading causing of hospitalization among seniors that frequently results in a loss of independence and can hasten a move into assisted living. 

Although pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs are frequently used to treat arthritis, physical therapy and certain forms of exercise have been proven to ease pain, increase strength, flexibility, and balance, and boost confidence.  People who suffer from osteoarthritis can benefit from exercise, reducing their disability, and improving their mental health by becoming more active and independent. 

Activities like strength training, Tai Chi, walking, or swimming all proved beneficial in reducing pain and improving physical function among study participants ranging in age between 52 and 74 with knee osteoarthritis.   Research also suggests that focusing on one type of exercise may yield the greatest benefits – activities should be supervised to ensure correct form and safety and done at least three times a week.   Talk with your doctor or physical therapist to learn more about what activities might help ease knee osteoarthritis symptoms. 

Read more about how exercise can help ease arthritis pain and stiffness by visiting the Mayo Clinic Health Information webpage here