“Dr. Smith, I have Osteoarthritis. Can I still be active?” -Jean L.

Most of us have heard of Osteoarthritis (OA). It’s a degenerative joint disease, affecting over 20 million Americans. It affects the cartilage, tissue on the ends of bones that meet in a joint that helps bones glide over one another. In OA patients, the cartilage is broken down and eventually wears away. As a result, instead of gliding, bones rub against each other, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion while symptoms are typically treated by medication, joint manipulation, and exercise.

Swimming, yoga, tai chi, pilates, light weight strength training, and aerobic activities are just a few exercise methods that can help those suffering from OA. Aerobic activities such biking or walking not only help your heart, but it activates certain opiod mechanisms in the body that help to reduce pain Walking is a great, low impact way to improve your cardiovascular health and burn off extra calories. The best part is that you can walk almost anywhere rain or shine. It’s also an ideal activity for those with other limited physical capabilities.

Swimming is a great exercise for OA sufferers because any kind of impact may exacerbate an underlying problem. Swimming reduces gravity that can add extra wear and tear to joints that already have limited cartilage. It’s also kinder to the muscles surrounding the joints. Yoga works well for people with OA because the breathing component of yoga might be just as helpful to ease chronic pain as the movement and stretching. Stretching the muscles that control the joints can assist in increasing ranges of motion of the joints. It is best to avoid poses that involve extreme ranges of motion so as to avoid injury to those just beginning yoga.

A New England Journal of Medicine study found that twice-weekly sessions of tai chi reduced pain, stiffness, and fatigue. It also helps with building strength, endurance, and balance, all things important to people experiencing OA. Pilates is advised for patients with spinal OA because it helps improve core strength and reduce back pain. Strength training strengthens the joints around the injury and that takes some of the stress off the joint when you’re using it. Just remember to pace yourself and make sure you’re using proper form.

Last but not least, make sure your joints are prepared for exercise. Doctors of chiropractic can detect the earliest degenerative changes in the joints. We can detect the impact of degenerative changes in the spine, hips, knees, and other weight-bearing joints. We’re also trained to relieve the pain and improve joint function through natural therapies like chiropractic adjustments. As a chiropractor, we can also provide exercise counseling and help you choose exercises that are best for you. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you function better!