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Joint Efforts-Exercise and Arthritis:
What Caregivers Need to Know

By Sean M. Kenny

(Page 1 of 2)

Exercise is beneficial to most of us, but exercise is especially vital to patients who have arthritis. Over 40 million Americans (1 in 7) have arthritis. Chances are good that you or your loved one may develop arthritis in the future. Let's explore the role of exercise with regards to caring for the arthritic population.

Years ago, doctors and therapists believed exercise would exacerbate the already painful joints of the arthritic patient. New research is now yielding a much different picture. Exercise helps get stiff joints moving, strengthens surrounding muscles for joint integrity, improves circulation and flexibility, builds stronger bones and cartilage, and provides more strength for daily chores. Exercise also provides greater self-esteem, a component lacking by many sufferers of arthritis.

Many patients feel controlled by the disease instead of them controlling the condition. Dependence on other people to help with daily chores can lead to frustration. Combined with daily pain, that can lead to stress and fatigue. Depression and anger often follow which can place strain on relationships with friends and family. As caregivers, we need to be encouraging and empathetic towards our clients’ loved ones. Exercise can be an effective way to help them regain control.

Exercise programming for this segment of the population should begin with involving the primary care doctor and/or rhumatoligist, along with the therapist and the caregiver. With over 100 different forms of arthritis, exercise programs need to be tailored to each individual as the implications for exercise varies greatly based of the form and severity of the disease. The focus of the program should be to improve the overall quality of the person's life. This is achieved through: Increasing overall health and fitness (reducing stress, increasing flexibility, etc.), improving self-esteem and aiding in pain management.


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