It is proved that exercise is the best tool you have on your hands to fight OA and all its symptoms. It can be painful and difficult sometimes, but it is worth all the effort. Even though, you may have seen many of the items in the list below, here there are five reasons why you should love your body and your joints through exercise:
- Boost your energy levels: when you exercise your brain releases chemicals (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids) that will make you feel good and help you raise your energy levels.
- Gain confidence and combat depression: By meeting physical goals and challenges, even if they are small, you will build up physical and mental confidence. Exercise will help you take a break from negative thoughts that come with anxiety and depression.
- Gain elasticity in your joints: in your physical routine make sure you do some stretching, this will help loosen your stiff joints, gain function in them and keep them moving.
- Sleep well: if you are not having complete nights of deep good sleep, not only you levels of depression and anxiety will raise, but your OA pain will get worse. Exercising is one of the most effective ways to get nights of good sleep.
- Make your heart, lungs and muscles stronger: introducing in your physical routine some aerobics and strength exercises will get your blood flowing and therefore your heart and lungs will gain strength. Additionally, by making your muscles stronger you will mitigate the stress on your main joints.
We are meant to move and keep moving throughout our lives, and stopping will not only get our chronic pain worse (OA), but will precipitate other health problems (physical and mental). Keep moving!
- The spine is an S chain formed by 33 bones called vertebrae. At the lowest section of the spine are the sacrum (5 vertebrae) and the tailbone (4 vertebrae). The rest of the spine (upper part) is a sequence of vertebrae connected by “disks” (cushion pads).
- At the heart of the spine runs the spinal cord. This “cord” is a bundle of nerves that connects almost all parts of the body to the brain.
- OA affects joints, and the spine having several of them, is very vulnerable to this condition. With time and over use the cartilage and disks between vertebrae deteriorate, which produce friction between bones and inflammation.
- As a natural response to cartilage and cushion loss the body builds extra bone mass at the spine, called spurs. These spurs aggravate OA because they reduce the openings where nerves pass through at the spine, causing pain, numbness and weakness in the legs.
- Exercise is probably the best therapy for any kind of spinal, back pain (including OA).
- Unfortunately but at the same time understandable, patients with back pain are afraid of physical activities, they are afraid of their pain. They foresee extra pain as a result of their movements. This reduction on physical activity debilitates and tightens the muscles around the spine, which causes more pain.
- It is safe to move, even if it is painful in the beginning. Introducing exercise to your pain management plan is basically the best way to stimulate blood circulation, maintain ideal weight, increase function and more important, avoid depression.
Your spine is not only your physical structure, but in a way your emotional column as well. Take care of it as you do with the rest of your most precious belongings.
There are many medicine options for OA, and many excellent alternatives for pain management, but nothing like your own judgment and discipline in the everyday decisions and activities.
Here is a list of 7 simple practices that will make your condition more manageable in the long run:
- Don’t be a hero: if the job or activity (like lifting a plant) is too big for you, don’t hesitate to say no to it, or simply ask for help.
- Don’t ignore your body signals: if after performing certain activities you feel excess pain and swelling, stop the activity and mitigate its intensity.
- Posture Hygiene: don’t underestimate what sitting and standing straight for years can do for you. This will certainly help to prevent pain and protect the joints in your neck, back, hips and knees.
- Don’t force your small joints: to perform heavy or big activities (like carrying and lifting), use your bigger and stronger joints and muscles as support.
- Nothing wrong with taking a rest: combine long and heavy activities with moments of rest. This will avoid stressing joints beyond your own limits.
- Protect your joints: when practicing sports of performing any physical activity (like playing soccer or gardening) protect your joints with special gear or devices like pads or garden kneelers.
- Build up until you become and expert: if you added a new physical activity to your routine (like sports) start slow at the beginning and listen to your body reactions. If you do this you will solidly become stronger and better in your chosen activity without loading your joints unnecessarily.
These and many more small practices can help you manage your condition and avoid future injuries. Check the OA brochure from the Arthritis foundation for more info: https://www.arthritis.org/Documents/Toolkits/Better-Living-Toolkit/OA-brochure.pdf