Better than drugs, safer than surgery: movement based therapies for osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition which is characterised by a break down of cartilage around the joints, this can cause pain and loss of motion in affected joints. While exercise will not cure Osteoarthritis some specifically targeted exercises can help help with the management of pain and maintain flexibility. Exercise is considered the best non-drug therapy for the management of Osteoarthritis for maintaining flexibility and reducing pain.

There are many exercise modalities which can help reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Flexibility exercises such as stretching and gentle movements by taking the joints through their full range of motion we can ensure that we maintain and even improve flexibility in affected joints, as well as reduce stiffness.  

While resistance training or strength training can improve muscular strength of particular muscles which can protect affected joints, can decrease bone loss and can help control swelling and pain.

Aerobic training is another important part of the management of osteoarthritis, Long duration walking or cycling not only protect the body from cardiovascular conditions but also helps with lubrication of joints and muscle strengthening.

 Other exercises that you might want to try are water based exercises, water helps support body weight, which means exercises such as swimming, aqua aerobics or other gentle water exercise do not place a heavy strain on muscle joints. Flowing movements such as tai chi or yoga work on a range of positions which can help increase flexibility, balance and range of motion while also reducing stress levels. Pilates is another great form of exercise for people with osteoarthritis due to it being a low impact exercise that stabilises joints and muscles.

As you can see there is a range of exercise types which are available for people with osteoarthritis which can help manage symptoms. To achieve meaningful results from the above exercise you must first find an exercise which you can enjoy and secondly find an exercise which you can consistently complete. Avoid exercises which aggravate symptoms and find ways to be active everyday in as many ways as you can.

Casey Haynes