Around 1 in every 6 people in the UK have some form of arthritis. Although the condition is degenerative, there are a number of things that can be done to slow the condition and help with pain management - one of them being osteopathy.
Osteopathy focuses on joint health, looking at how your joints work in connection with the ligaments and muscles to help realign your form and alleviate pain and discomfort.
As specialists when it comes to joints, an osteopath could not be better placed than anyone to help with arthritis. Although they can’t cure the condition, they may be able to help with pain relief and, in some cases, slow the condition by providing exercises that: improve blood flow to the affected areas and reduce inflammation, help improve strength and mobility, and increase your range of movement.
If you’re someone who is suffering from arthritis then we’d of course recommend contacting an osteopath (in addition to your GP) for an appointment for a full physical analysis, and to get guidance and exercises that are tailored to your specific needs or pain points.
But in the meantime, there are some simple, gentle exercises you can do that may help with the discomfort but will still allow you to improve your range of motion and prevent stiffness in the joints:
Swimming and low-intensity aquatic activities like water aerobics can be great to support arthritis as they get the body moving and the joints active, without putting pressure through the joints.
Swimming can be a great choice of exercise if you have arthritis because it:
Thinking back to your GCSE or O-Level science days, you may recall that the body has little to no mass in water, which makes you more buoyant and also helps to reduce impact on your joints.
If you’re swimming, ideally opt for a slower, and more gentle stroke like breast stroke. Be sure to take movements at a pace that feels comfortable to you too - don’t feel pressured to match the speed of other swimmers or people in your class.
This might seem like an obvious one, or something that you’re already doing ‘plenty of’ in your day to day, but there’s so much to be said for walking more.
You want to strike a balance between being sedentary, and overworking your joints. A simple recommendation would be to invest in a pedometer, a FitBit or track your average daily steps using a smart device (like a smartphone or Apple Watch if you have one) to help monitor your daily steps.
Start by tracking the current number of steps in your existing daily routine. If you’re currently averaging around 2,000 steps in the day or are quite sedentary, and you suddenly transition to 20,000 steps as part of a steep, brisk walk, it will likely leave you exhausted and probably put unnecessary tension through your joints (particularly the knees). And this does more harm than good.
Building up to a higher step count gradually, at a leisurely pace with flat or minimal inclines will allow your body to adjust and gradually build up strength without pouting excess strain through your joints.Ideally try to aim for 5-10K steps per day as a starting point and, as you feel your fitness levels increasing and your joints adapting, you can slowly start to increase this.
If walking is something that doesn’t much appeal to you, find ways to integrate it into your daily routine like going for a 30-minute walk before work to get a coffee, or strolling with a friend while catching up, or using it as an excuse to sign off from work and step away from your WFH setup. There are plenty of ways to make the experience more enjoyable and work for you so it’s doubly worthwhile!
As you might expect, yoga is a wonderful form of movement to help those with arthritis as it’s low-intensity and is great for flexibility and mobility. But there’s so many different forms of yoga, so how do you know which is right for you?
Both Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga are forms of ‘athletic’ or ‘power yoga’ as both help to build and maintain muscles that support the joints affected by arthritis. So these are a great starting point.
Most yoga classes are either mixed-ability or will offer set classes that cater to a range of abilities, which also means you can take it at your own pace and allow your body to adapt and build up strength over time rather than a sudden transition.
This one does what it says on the tin. There are plenty of mobility classes on offer in the UK through gyms and we could not recommend them enough.
Many people snub mobility classes as they’re not considered equal to that of a strength or conditioning class, but they do so much to improve body functionality, help mobilise the joints and improve flexibility.
Coaches will also look at your form to help correct misalignment which will, in turn, help minimise arthritic pain and, in some cases, slow your condition.
Ultimately, arthritis is a complex condition and can’t solely be solved by simple exercises but these are a starting point. Finding the most effective pain-relief techniques will be dependent on your individual condition, so we recommend speaking to your GP for medical support and booking an appointment with one of our osteopaths who can give exercises and advice tailored specifically to you and the type of arthritis you have.