One of the most important things you can do if you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis is to continue to try and strengthen and build muscles to compensate for the breakdown of cartilage that is occurring in the joints. Osteoarthritis is most commonly seen in the weight bearing joints such as the spine, hips and knees. When cartilage breaks down in these joints it can lead to stiffness and pain. However, by working to keep the muscles surrounding the joint in good condition, it can help to alleviate some of this pain.
Exercising a joint that is already causing us pain can be difficult to say the least. We don’t want to cause further pain or pressure by overdoing it. There are however, some simple exercises, including stretches that you can do at home, that can make a difference. Here are just a few:
This is a fairly simple stretch you can do at home that will strengthen the muscles in your legs. Start by lying flat on your back with both knees bent slightly. Next extend your right leg to a 45° angle and hold for 30 seconds. You may find that you need to loop a towel or strap around your foot for support. Stretch your leg for 30 seconds at a time. Repeat this at least two more times and then switch to your left leg.
Neck and Back Stretches
These exercises will help keep your spine strong and limber. First, slowly roll your head to the right making a big loop all the way around. You should feel the stretch in your neck. Repeat this two or three times. Then start on your left and go to your right. You don’t want to cause injury to yourself, but try to extend the range of motion with each pass. Eventually, you will start to feel the stretch in your shoulders and upper back.
Standing Calf Stretch
It’s been shown that osteoarthritis patients who perform standing calf stretches on a regular basis have experienced improved function in their joints. They also report less pain and stiffness. Start by facing the wall with your right leg in front of you and your left leg behind you. Next, place your hands on the wall for support, and slowly bend your right knee while leaning into the wall and pressing your left heel to the floor. You should notice a stretch in your left calf muscle right away. Hold it for 30 seconds and then slowly relax. Repeat this two or three times before switching with your left leg in front and your right leg behind.
These are just a few of the simple exercises and stretches you can do at home to help strengthen muscles in and around the joints of your body. Even the smallest steps can make a difference as you deal with osteoarthritis pain. To learn more about dealing with OA symptoms, be sure to call Arrowhead Health Centers at 623-334-4000, extension 9, and ask about our treatments.