Osteoarthritis is caused when a joint progressively degenerates, whether knee, hip, ankle, spine or toe. This causes the breakdown of the cartilage cushioning around the joint. As a result, the bones rub together, causing achiness, instability, buckling or loss of function. You may also notice increased boniness, enlargement and/or deformity of your affected joints. These symptoms can develop gradually, be intermittent or slowly fade as you get more active throughout the other day. However, even though your discomfort might not progress past the mild-moderate level or may not seem permanent, you should still address your joint pain with your primary care physician.
Eventually, osteoarthritis could cause you to limit or refrain from exercise, which can put you at risk for a host of other obesity-related complications. Osteoarthritis limits peoples' activity levels more than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. It's a common myth that you should not use or "wear out" a joint. Not only will regular low-impact exercise not increase the development of osteoarthritis, it will help you maintain a range of motion, muscle strength and a healthy BMI.
Avoiding weight gain, or losing weight if you are already overweight, is the single most important factor in preventing and treating osteoarthritis. You may be surprised at the small amount of weight you'll need to lose to take a great amount of stress off your knees: losing just one pound can alleviate between 30-60 pounds of pressure.
Here are some low-impact exercises that are useful for getting (or keeping) your joints moving:
- Recumbent cycling
- Elliptical machine
- Kettle ball class
- Rowing machine