Why Exercise Physiology should be a part of your arthritis management plan

Arthritis is a common ailment, making it one of the most prevalent conditions that we encounter as Exercise Physiologists.

But what exactly is Arthritis? Arthritis is an umbrella term that refers to over 100 separate conditions that cause common features of pain, stiffness or swelling in the joints. 

It seems that as long as we have had joints and bones, we have been suffering from that nasty ache of arthritis as we age. Evidence of arthritis has even been found in dinosaurs! Next time you feel a twinge of pain, remember that you might have more in common with a Tyrannosaurus Rex than you think. Evidence of arthritis has also been referenced in texts as far back as 123 AD.

However, this doesn’t mean we have to simply put up with arthritis-related joint pain. 

So, what can we do to manage this age-old problem?

Well, the good news is that instead of trying some rather concerning old-timey remedies, we now have science-based medicines, exercises and pain management techniques to support you with arthritis management. 

As your local Exercise Physiologists, we know our stuff and are well-placed to help. Find out how we can help you reduce pain, improve mobility, and have stronger, happier joints.


Most common types of arthritis


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It is a kind of degenerative joint disease where the cartilage within the joint begins to change due to occupational and lifestyle hazards. Such changes can cause pain of all types, from sharp and stabbing, to dull and persistent.

Osteoarthritis is often associated with the lumbar spine, knees, hands and feet. However, it can occur at any joint throughout the body.

Symptoms include pain and stiffness, poor joint mobility, and even grating or clicking sounds when moving joints. 

About 1 in 10 women and 1 in 16 men live with osteoarthritis in Australia. It is associated with a kind of ‘wear and tear on joints, and a person’s likelihood of developing osteoarthritis increases with age and injury. Once Australians reach the age of 75, 1 in 3 have osteoarthritis. 

Osteoarthritis is generally diagnosed by a doctor performing a physical examination and imaging such as an x-ray. It is most commonly managed with lifestyle modifications and pain management as required. Rarely, surgical interventions may be required as a last resort. 


Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease, meaning that the body attacks its own cells often causing pain in the lining of your joints. Generally, it affects small joints first and progresses to larger joints. 

Joints may appear warm and swollen in addition to being painful. The swelling may worsen in the morning or after long period of stillness. Other tissues such as the heart, kidneys, eyes and skin may also be affected. Symptoms can come and go as the disease flares up.

The direct causes of rheumatoid arthritis are unknown, although factors such as age, genetic predisposition and weight all appear to play a part. 

Treatment and symptom management generally involves medication to treat the disease, as well as exercise, complementary therapies and lifestyle modifications. 


Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis affects people who also suffer from psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin condition where the skin forms dry, scaly patches that are itchy and painful. It is an inflammatory condition that is believed to be autoimmune. Psoriatic arthritis causes joint pain, stiffness and swelling. It can affect any joint in the body. It is believed to be affected by both genetics and the environment. Physical triggers may cause the onset or flare-up of psoriatic arthritis.

There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, and treatment focuses on symptom management and halting the progression of the disease. Skin symptoms are managed by topical medications and oral medications, and other medications may be given to manage arthritis. There is a strong emphasis on keeping joints as mobile as possible and maintaining function. 


How Exercise Physiology can help manage arthritis

It might seem counter-intuitive to seek an Exercise Physiologist for support with arthritis. Often when we think of a person with arthritis, we imagine somebody who looks elderly and frail, who moves stiffly and slowly and may find it difficult to exercise. But that’s not true at all. Many people with arthritis live active, fulfilling lives and are still able to enjoy exercise and movement with a little bit of support to manage their condition. 

Besides, it’s doctor’s orders. The evidence is in – exercise has a huge number of benefits for people with arthritis. These include:

– Improved strength and balance

– Improved mental health and sleep

– Better joint lubrication and function

– Reduced weight, which places less pressure on joints

– Improved function and flexibility

– For some types of arthritis, inactivity actually leads to more pain. Exercise can be used as a form of preventative pain management. 

However, exercising with arthritis involves more consideration than exercising without a joint condition. This means that we recommend speaking with an allied health practitioner such as an Exercise Physiologist to get this process right from the outset. An exercise program should match your goals and abilities, and should take into account which joints are painful or which movements might be difficult for you to safely perform. 

We can work with you and your care team – such as your GP and rheumatologist – to support you to develop an exercise program that meets your unique requirements. 

We have a strong understanding of the human body and how we can support you to manage pain, build up stamina and provide guided exercises to avoid injury. As you perform the exercises, we can assist you to learn how to pace yourself and manage any fatigue that arises. 

It can be difficult to find the line between overworking a sore and inflamed joint, and causing more pain and stiffness through excessive inactivity. We can understand that this can be a daunting situation to face, therefore as Exercise Physiologists we can assist you in achieving the right balance.

We also know all the ins and outs of different exercise techniques. Often, strength training and low-impact aerobics are advised for people with arthritis. 

We can suggest some great exercise ideas, such as swimming in warm water, doing gentle tai chi, certain supported exercises, and many others. 

Don’t struggle with exercise alone, or decide to live a life of inactivity due to fear of making your arthritis worse. Arthritis doesn’t need to stop you – and we are all too happy to help.

Our friendly, qualified Exercise Physiologists are here to support you. With convenient locations in Carseldine, Chermside and Norman Park, we are happy to guide you to get moving again. 

Contact us now to book today.


All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Restart can consult with you regarding your individual health needs.