NPR_Health Reports: People with Arthritis Shun Exercise – Though it would help, not hurt


Before you read one word of what I have to say, read this. I’m the slowest reader on Earth and it took me all of 3-5 minutes.

There were a few things that struck me as alarming throughout this piece. I know I am a physical therapist, and with my patient population I deal with osteoarthritis (OA) on an hourly, not daily, basis, but I guess we in the medical community are doing a poor job of spreading the word regarding the benefit of exercise for OA. Not only does exercise spread synovial fluid (our joints’ lubrication) so our achy parts feel better, it provides mental relief too. Exercise allows people to be, and more importantly, feel empowered, leading to less depression that often comes along with inactivity, because people no longer feel in control of their own lives. (http://tinyurl.com/4x2kg8r, http://tinyurl.com/3pdhmwt, http://tinyurl.com/3po6lo6, ad nauseum)

” A majority of the women (56.5 percent) and lots of the men (40 percent) were inactive. That means they got no exercise that would count as moderate (like brisk walking) or vigorous (biking or running) for at least 10 minutes anytime in the course of a week.”

This made me almost throw up the foot long buffalo chicken sandwich I had just eaten from Subway. Or maybe I almost threw up because I had just eaten a foot long buffalo chicken sandwich from Subway. That averages out to like 50% of the population with arthritis getting about no exercise in their day. I think of my grandma when I think of people with arthritis. Her knees are the size of basketballs; they need to be replaced more desperately than Gaddafi. But almost every day she is out working in her garden, or going for walks with her neighbors. She knows she has pain, and she knows she will hurt while she does it, BUT she knows that she will ultimately feel better after the fact. Why does she know this? Because she has an awesome grandson who is a PT. The point of this being that she knows this because she is educated/was told about it. Education is the key to empowerment, and I think that somehow we are missing the boat if this many people are getting that little exercise A WEEK!

Second big point that I took away from this article is related to, “Turns out their exercise levels were a lot lower than found in previous studies in which people self-reported on their activities.” Is this the typical American way or what? In actuality, we do almost nothing, but when self reporting, we over-estimate how much nothing we do. I wish I was told how much activity these people really think they got. I know I learned about this back in Psychology 101, or 210, or 30000000 when I took it, but I do know that we as a collective whole tend to over-exaggerate things when there’s no way to prove otherwise (See Donald Trump’s self-reported net-worth).

Like I said earlier, education is the most important part to helping solve this conundrum. Regardless of where you live, a doctor is usually the gate-keeper to getting medical care. It is up to these professionals to inform patients that not only will the latest anti-inflammatory possibly work, but cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, changing your diet, and just overall moving more will reduce your osteoarthritis pain. That’s step one. Step two, once we see these people as physical therapists, personal trainers, chiropractors, etc is to educate them some more. Patients are more willing to see the validity of what their MD’s told them if it is hammered into their consciousness even more (and if the MDs didn’t do it in the first place, now it has been done).

Unfortunately this article neglects to mention us other health care professionals’ role in decreasing these patients’ pain. Regardless, I think we need to help spread the word that a little movement is actually good for your joints, and can actually lead to a better, more active, and more fulfilling life in the “long run” (pun intended).

Always evolve (through education),

Mike

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3 responses to “NPR_Health Reports: People with Arthritis Shun Exercise – Though it would help, not hurt

  1. What if we do exercise (walking 3 miles per day and Pilates weekly), how do we relieve the pain? When I do more strenuous exercise, such as Zumba, my knee becomes much weaker.

    • Robbie,

      1. Zumba is ridiculously difficult; lots of weight bearing, changes of direction, etc.

      2. Not all activities are right for all people. Depending on which muscles are tight and which ones are weak movements that are heavy on weighted repetitive knee flexion would not be good for those with OA of the knee. Something with reduced weight bearing. Such as swimming, water aerobics, or cycling are preferred. But most older adults with OA need the weight bearing for their bones. For this I recommend a thorough strength training regimen that puts axial load through the bones.

      3. I love when patients want to be active and are active, but HATE telling patients that they shouldn’t do things like Zumba, or run marathons because their OA has progressed to a point where joint reservation is the primary goal of treatment.

      4. Reducing the constant compression through joints by stretching is also important.

      I know you’ll have more questions so please feel free to ask away. I love your enthusiasm for staying active. Don’t be a stranger.

      Always evolve,

      Mike

    • Robbie,

      I forgot to address the weakness after doing strenuous exercise. If something is painful, the brain will try to protect the body and stop the painful stimulus from occurring again. This has developed over millions of years of evolution, or Devine creation depending on what you believe. Either way, weakness is seen because the brain does not want to tell your quads or hamstrings to perform the noxious stimulus, in your case Zumba.

      If the brain associates pain with a certain level of activity weakness will be seen while attempting to do it over and over again. Sometimes the brain is just too smart for us.

      Mike

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