Can Exercise Help with Arthritis Pain?

By Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTP for Athletico Physical Therapy

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. The degenerative joint disease is due to a breakdown of cartilage. Arthritis can occur in many joints including the hands, hips, knees, lower back, neck and shoulders.

OA can cause pain, swelling and stiffness in joints. OA is a chronic condition and occurs over time as the cartilage in the joints wears away. OA is frequently associated with older age, but can start in your 20s or 30s. Due to the symptoms of OA, physical activity can become more difficult but exercise can actually help alleviate some of these symptoms.

How can exercise help improve symptoms of arthritis?

Exercise can help to improve joint pain and improve range of motion. The key to working out when you have OA is to select exercises that you can do comfortably and perform consistently. One of the most effective ways to reduce the pressure placed on your joints, especially those in the lower extremity, is to maintain a healthy weight. With each pound of excess weight lost, there is a four-fold decrease in the load on your joints.

Oftentimes, OA joint pain can make high impact activities, such as running, too painful. However there are low impact activities that are great options, including biking, swimming or walking. Those with joint pain may also see benefits from varying their routine – such as walking one day and switching to swimming the next day – to avoid joint overuse from repetition. It is important to note that it is recommended to consult with your doctor before starting a new workout routine or trying new exercises.

Tips for Exercising with Osteoarthritis

  • Yoga or Tai Chi
    • These activities can help improve balance and strengthen muscles that support the hip and knee joints.
  • Aquatic Classes
    • Exercising in water is great for those with moderate to severe OA pain. The water provides buoyancy and therefore less stress on the joints. The water is also usually warm which can help improve joint mobility.
  • Stretching
    • Stretching can help improve joint range of motion and relieve tight muscles that may be limiting joint range. Stretching should be performed both prior to and following a workout. Read, “Warming Up vs Cooling Down: Things to Know” to learn more about the benefits of stretching before and after activity.
  • Go Slow, Move Gentle
    • Exercise with slow and easy movements, and also move gently to warm your joints up. Performing range of motion exercises for 10 minutes is a great way to start a workout prior to progressing to aerobic or strengthening exercises. If you feel pain, take a break or back off.
  • Heat Before and Ice After
    • Heat can help relax the joints and muscles and can help you begin your workouts. Applying ice after a workout can help alleviate soreness and potential swelling in joints following activity.

Be Consistent

Keep in mind that a lack of exercise can actually make joints even more painful and stiff. When you do not exercise, the muscles that support your joints are weaker and can cause more stress on your joints.  Remember to trust your body and do not push your joints too far. Easing into a new routine and progressing slowly with intensity and duration is key. If you would like more guidance for workouts with arthritis, please find your local Athletico to request an appointment.

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FAI Patients Who Practice Yoga Respond Well to Surgery

person doing yoga

Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is a painful hip condition that is most often diagnosed in younger patients who perform activities that require hip flexibility, like yoga. In patients with FAI, extra bone develops along the acetabulum (socket of the hip) or on the femoral head (ball of the hip). This bony overgrowth damages the soft tissues of the hip during movement. This condition can be effectively treated with hip arthroscopy, a surgical process during which a small camera and tiny instruments are inserted into a narrow incision to treat the affected area.

Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush hip arthroscopy specialist, Dr. Shane Nho, has been following hip arthroscopy patients who practice yoga to identify at what rate they returned to yoga after the procedure. The study reported that a full 93% of patients were able to return to yoga approximately 6 months post-surgery.

See the full study published in SAGE Journals here.

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10 Yoga Asanas for Strength

Shape, strengthen and tone your entire body with these 10 yoga asanas for strength.

Yoga-Asanas-For-StrengthWhy is Building Strength Important?

  • Stronger muscles not only help stabilize your joints but also boost weight loss.
  • Strength training builds bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
  • It has also been shown to increase mental health, reduce anxiety, depression, pain, improve sleep, confidence, and self-esteem!

Hold these yoga asanas for strength for 10 – 12 breathes unless otherwise indicated.

And if you’re a beginner, work within your limits and aim for five, long deep breathes.


1. Boat Pose.

Yoga-Asanas-For-Strength

  1. From a seated, knees bent position, lift your legs till your shins are parallel to the floor.
  2. Next, extend your arms so they’re in line with your legs and at shoulder height.
  3. Finally, straighten out your legs and float that boat!

This is one of the best yoga asanas for strength with regards to your core.


2. Scale Pose.

Yoga-Asanas-For-Strength

  1. From the lotus position, place your palms on the floor beside your hips.
  2. Then, exhale, push the hands against the floor, pull in your navel, and lift your legs and buttocks away from the floor.
  3. Lastly, hold suspended for 10 to 15 seconds.

3. Upward Plank.

Yoga-Asanas-For-Strength

  1. Sitting on your mat, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor, heels a foot away from your buttocks.
  2. Next, exhale, press your inner feet and hands down against the floor, and lift your hips until you come into a reverse table-top position, torso and thighs approximately parallel to the floor, shins and arms approximately perpendicular.
  3. Without losing the height of your hips, straighten your legs one at a time. Lift your hips still higher without hardening your buttocks. Press your shoulder blades against your back torso to support the lift of your chest.
  4. Hold for 5, long, deep breathes.

4. Downward Facing Dog.

Yoga-Asanas-For-Strength

  1. Begin on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips and hands slightly forward of your shoulders and curl your toes under.
  2. Next, exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first, keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor.
  3. Then, breathe out, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but don’t lock them.
  4. Finally, press through your index fingers, don’t hunch your shoulder blades and keep your head between your arms, not hanging.

5. Plank Pose.

Yoga-Asanas-For-Strength

  1. From downward facing dog, inhale and draw your torso forward until the arms are perpendicular to the floor and the shoulders directly over the wrists, torso parallel to the floor.
  2. Next, press your outer arms inward and firm the bases of your index fingers into the floor.
  3. Hold for 5 breaths.

6. Side Plank Pose.

Yoga-Asanas-For-Strength

  1. From the plank pose, press your weight down through your right hand.
  2. Then, roll your body to the right whilst balancing on the outer edge of your right foot. Stack your left foot on top of your right foot and keep your legs aligned.
  3. Place your left hand on your hips or stretch your fingertips to the sky and gaze up at your thumb.

7. Bird Dog Pose.

Yoga-Asanas-For-Strength

  1. Come to your hands and knees with your palms flat on the floor directly below your shoulders and your hips above your knees. Keep your neck aligned with your back.
  2. Then, shift your weight to your left knee and slowly lift your right leg and straighten it behind you while pointing your toes to the ground.
  3. Next, shift your weight onto your right hand and lift your left arm straight in front of you.
  4. Hold for 5 breathes, and then repeat on your opposite side.

When it comes to yoga asanas for strength in the back, arms and glutes, this pose is ideal!


8. Tree Pose.

Yoga-Asanas-For-Strength

  1. Begin standing with your arms by your sides (mountain pose).
  2. Shift your weight to your left foot.
  3. Rest your hands on your hips and lengthen your tailbone toward the Earth.
  4. Fix your gaze to a spot on the wall and draw down through you left foot and toes.
  5. Repeat on your opposite side.

9. Warrior Pose.

Yoga-Asanas-For-Strength

  1. Begin with your feet 4 to 5 feet apart.
  2. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, so your toes are pointing to the top of the mat and pivot your left foot slightly inwards around 45-degree angle.
  3. Next, raise your arms to shoulder height, palms facing down and reach through your fingertips.
  4. Finally, exhale and bend your front knee directly over your ankle. Keeping your shin straight, sink in at the hips till your thigh is parallel to the ground and gaze across the tip of your right middle finger. Repeat on the other side.

10. Chair Pose.

Yoga-Asanas-For-Strength

  1. From a standing position, inhale and raise your arms above your head, perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Exhale as you bend your knees, bringing your thighs as parallel to the floor as you can.
  3. Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs as you reach your elbows back towards your ears.

I hope you find these yoga asanas for strength a useful addition to your health and fitness routines.  They’re beginner friendly and you can do them every day.

By 

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Barre Workouts: Learn the Benefits and Limitations

By Tara Hackney for Athletico Physical Therapy

barre workout benfits and limitationsBarre workouts have been around for a while. You may be curious; maybe you’ve tried a class; maybe you’re scared to try a class because you aren’t a “ballerina” or, maybe you don’t see the appeal of this workout. Whichever you are, it’s important to learn the concepts of Barre so you know the benefits and limitations of this workout!

Barre workouts combine yoga, Pilates, ballet and strength training.

Benefits of Barre Workouts:

1. The tiny movements can help you get stronger! The tiny movements are called isometric contractions where the muscle tenses without changing length. Isometric exercise is a way to maintain muscle strength. These small movements can help isolate specific muscles. You may also be able to do more repetitions with these smaller movements as you will fatigue in a different way than typical strength training (ex: squats, bicep curls). These exercises are generally low weight, but high repetition to help with endurance. Isometric contractions also help strengthen muscles with a slightly lower risk of injury compared to traditional strength training due to less strain on tendons and ligaments.

2. You can target multiple muscle groups at once! In each move, you can do 2 to 4 movements either holding, pulsing, or stretching. When working all these areas at once you can also raise the heart rate.

3. You can improve the mind body connection! The smaller movements can enhance your level of body awareness that you may not achieve in normal strength workouts. Barre class can help improve muscle activation for frequently underused muscles.

Limitations of Barre Workouts:

1. You may not gain functional strength! Barre classes can lack compound movements like squats or lunges which use multiple muscle groups and joints. These functional exercises help with strength for movements in everyday life such as stair climbing or carrying groceries. Compound movements also help elevate the heart rate. Many classes have begun adding these compound movements to their workouts now.

2. The heart may not be challenged enough! The cardio in a barre class may not be enough for cardiovascular health. There also is a limit in the post-exercise burn with barre class. Other forms of exercise, such as resistance training and high intensity interval training, may be more effective at increasing the calories burned during and after a workout.

3. You may plateau! Your body can get use to barre class. You can tap out on your potential to get stronger. We must always keep challenging our bodies to prevent this plateau.

A Change in Your Workout:
Barre class is fun and interesting for many people. It is also a great way to change up a traditional strength training routine. Barre classes provide a low impact full body workout. Finding a workout routine that appeals to you is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle! Should an injury occur during workout, schedule an appointment at a nearby Athletico location so we can help you heal.

If you suspect an injury from a work out find your closest Athletico for a complimentary injury screen.

Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen

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