Ever wondered where that creaking, popping sound was coming from? If you knew the answer to that one, chances are you’ve more than just heard of arthritis.
Stiff joints that make you walk around like Frankenstein, yep that’s arthritis, a chronic condition that causes the cartilage in joints to wear down, resulting in inflammation and pain. Although arthritis can be of many types such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis, the most common kind affecting ankles, wrists, knees and the spine is osteoarthritis.
Often arthritis, especially osteoarthritis occurs with overuse, and therefore is not limited to your grandparents, but also occurs frequently in runners and athletes. This is also the reason why arthritis of the knee is the most prevalent kind. So whether you are old or young, an important aspect of treating arthritis is through physical exercise.
How can exercise help?
Although it can seem counterproductive to treat an overuse injury with exercise, the goal of exercise in this case is to strengthen the muscles around your joints, and to increase or maintain range of motion.
Because arthritis is a painful condition, it can naturally cause a decline in physical activity in patients, and this results in muscle weakening, thereby putting more strain on the joints. This vicious cycle needs to be kept in check, with exercise. With stronger muscles supporting the joints, exercise can serve as a form of rehabilitation, helping manage arthritis.
What kinds of exercises work best?
Any exercise that offers moderate load bearing, while allowing for range of motion, is good when it comes to arthritis. This includes walking, pilates, stretching and yoga. These are good ways to maintain range of motion and build endurance.
In addition to more general exercise, however, the use of resistance bands has been shown to be extremely effective in managing arthritis. This is because resistance bands offer a great way to achieve muscle strengthening, while at the same time increasing bone density without placing a strain on joints. This effectively helps patients remain pain free in the long run.
Why resistance training?
Exercises for arthritis mostly focus on three aspects, namely, flexibility or range of motion, muscle strengthening and endurance. The reason resistance training is so effective is that it focuses on all three areas naturally, without putting undue strain on the joints.
Research has shown that even as little as one to two hours of resistance training a week can keep older people who suffer from osteoarthritis, relatively pain free. Moreover, resistance training can be done at the comfort of your home, keeping equipment down to a minimum.
(Illustrative representation of below mentioned exercises)
Simple exercises to strengthen your knees
Here are a set of simple exercises that require only the use of mini resistance bands, and can be safely and easily performed from the comfort of your home.
- Crab walk
Loop the mini resistance band around your thighs, a few inches above your knees. Maintain enough tension to ensure the resistance band does not slip off. With a slight bend in the knees, take a step sideways with one foot, while keeping both feet pointed forwards. Continue to take 9 more steps in the same direction. Then reverse and repeat with the other foot, in the opposite direction.
This exercise helps strengthen your glutes, hip flexors and quads, all vital in keeping your knees healthy and in position.
- Side leg raises
Stand erect with the mini resistance band looped around your ankles. Place ankles hip width apart to ensure the resistance band remains taut. While holding onto a table or wall for support, slowly raise the one leg to the side, making sure the foot continues to point forward and the leg remains straight at the knee. Once past the 30 to 45 degree angle, slowly bring it back to original position. Perform 10 repetitions before switching sides.
This exercise improves range of motion of the hip flexors and strengthens the adductor muscles on the inside of your thighs. These are muscles that keep your knee stabilized during movement,
- Front leg raises
Place a chair in front of you. Loop one end of the mini resistance band around the front leg of the chair. Sit down on the chair. Place the other end of the resistance band around the ankle directly in front of it. While sitting with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle, gently begin to raise the leg attached to the resistance band. Raise as much as you can before beginning the foot back to starting position. Perform 10 repetitions before switching sides to repeat on the other leg.
This exercise works on strengthening the muscles around the knee.
Regular exercise is key
There is no substitute to regular exercise when it comes to managing a chronic condition such as arthritis. Because this is a degenerative disease, our best approach to ensure that we arrest deterioration is with proper and regular strength training.