Exercise and regular movement provide various health benefits beyond weight loss, including improvement of cardiopulmonary, musculoskeletal and organ health. Everyday movement is also a straight-forward solution to maintaining healthy joints.
Recent studies show that daily movement is more important than ever, due to increasingly sedentary lifestyles in the U.S., according to Travis Hall, Doctor of Physical Therapy at Prowers Medical Center. Individuals tend to overthink the word “exercise,” he explained, worrying they have to fit in an hour of exercise at least five days a week, which can feel discouraging or unrealistic. But just walking for 30 minutes every day can decrease major risk factors for mainstream health problems, Hall said, and that includes joint-related issues.
“Movement and general strength can help prevent joint problems,” Hall said. “These problems may still come later on in life, but regular exercise combined with nutrition, flexibility and mobility exercises are your best chance.”
Inactive individuals might incur joint-related conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, gout, strains and sprains. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 26 percent of U.S. adults are projected to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by the year 2040.
“Think of your body like a car; if you don’t drive that car, it rusts and gets stuck,” said Lori Denman, Rehabilitation Manager at Prowers Medical Center. “The same goes for our bodies. Movement is the trigger mechanism to “release the grease” to our joints. The synovial fluids in our joints basically work like car grease; you need to move your joints in order for them to stay lubricated.”
Is it Joint Pain?
Any joint can develop issues. Symptoms may include redness, tenderness and swelling in the joints, as well as limping, locking of the joint, stiffness and general weakness.
Hall said joint pain is difficult to self-diagnose and individuals who think they might have joint-related pain should seek help from a rehabilitation specialist. These specialists can assist in identifying the root of the problem; determining whether or not the pain is joint-related, and if so, what type of joint pain it is; and recommending any type of exercise and treatment plans to relieve pain in affected areas.
“For example, we can take an exercise and put a patient on a Blood Flow Restriction machine, which simulates a high-intensity, low-impact workout without placing any stress on their hurting joints,” he explained. “The stronger your muscles are, the more they take the impact of your day-to-day activities, which relieves the stresses of the joints. If your muscles are weak, your joints have to take that impact.”
The best exercises for joint pain are ones that are low impact and high repetition. Make sure these exercises relieve pain and do not add to it, and limit weight-bearing exercises on the area of pain.
“They shouldn’t be easy, but they also shouldn’t make you so sore that you can’t function safely the next day,” Denman said about rehabilitative exercises. “If it hurts, you’re not going to do it or stay with it. Workouts for pain relief should include lifechanging exercises that help your joints.”
Joint pain can be caused by natural bone deterioration with age, wear on a previous injury, cancer and other movement-related conditions.
“Therapy and a home exercise program should be the very first things anybody tries if they’re experiencing joint pain,” Hall said. “It’s important to realize the pain isn’t going to take care of itself, and to take action before you get to the point where you feel hopeless.”
Tips for Getting into an Exercise Routine
Denman said a go-to phrase often used by physical therapists is “motion is lotion,” meaning the more you move your body, the more your joints are getting the natural lubricants they need to stay healthy and active. Exercise also helps with circulation to the muscles and bones.
It’s important to note that exercise can actually lead to joint pain, if overdone or approached incorrectly. Don’t just incorporate exercise into your routine for weight loss — make it a priority for your overall health. Hall provided three tips for getting into a normal routine:
- Start off conservative and progress as your body builds strength and increasingly begins to tolerate your workouts.
- Be well-rounded in your approach and incorporate exercises into your routine that focus on strength, cardio, mobility and flexibility.
- Don’t worry about weight loss; with proper nutrition and consistent movement, your body will handle weight on its own.
“Exercise looks different for everyone; an exercise routine for a high school athlete is going to look different than a middle-aged patient trying to support general health, which is also going to look different than a geriatric patient trying to maintain daily functional strengths,” Hall concluded. “There are various beneficial workout routines, and our team at Prowers Medical Center can help you determine the best one for your needs.”
For more information on physical therapy and rehabilitation services offered at Prowers Medical Center, call 719-336-6728 or go to prowersmedical.com/services/rehabilitation-services.