Over the weekend, my mother casually stated that her arthritis has been bothering her. "What arthritis?" I asked her.
My mother is a very active woman just months away from her 80th birthday. She tries to walk 10,000 steps every day (we once calculated that to be a little over 2 miles for her). She has done 5-10Ks, knits lovely things for people and has beautiful hands with long tapered fingers. When she showed me her fingers, I was shocked that I had not noticed, before, that her knuckles were slightly deformed.
This revelation has been bothering me a lot, largely because she's my mom and is always expressing her concern over my physical condition (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scoliosis, more) without much regard for her own issues. She needs to see her doctor about her hands; but she said she has me to help her keep her legs moving.
She is planning to do a local annual 10K that falls on her milestone birthday weekend. Being a marathoner, in spite of my own issues, my mother's comment reminded me why we stay active: exercise, or atrophy.
The Mayo Clinic contends that exercise helps reduce the pain from even rheumatoid and osteoarthritis and can also:
- Strengthen the muscles around your joints
- Help you maintain bone strength
- Give you more strength and energy to get through the day
- Make it easier to get a good night's sleep
- Help you control your weight
- Make you feel better about yourself and improve your sense of well-being
These tips also help protect your joints as you get into an exercise program:
- Apply heat to the joints you'll be working before you exercise. Heat can relax your joints and muscles and relieve any pain you have before you begin. Heat treatments — warm towels, hot packs or a shower — should be warm, not painfully hot, and should be applied for about 20 minutes.
- Move your joints gently at first to warm up. You might begin with range-of-motion exercises for five to 10 minutes before you move on to strengthening or aerobic exercises.
- Exercise with slow and easy movements. If you start noticing pain, take a break. Sharp pain and pain that is stronger than your usual joint pain might indicate something is wrong. Slow down if you notice inflammation or redness in your joints.
- Ice your joints after exercising. This can reduce swelling and pain. Use a cold pack on your joints for 10 to 15 minutes.
What kind of exercise is best? Keep moving, I've always said, and Mayo agrees. Range of motion, aerobics, walking all help keep your joints flexible. Just don't overdo it and make sure you check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Mom realizes she needs to start "training" for her 10K, even though it's not until next Spring. If I know her, she'll be forcing everyone else on our team (did I mention we've already formed a family team?) to keep up with her!
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