Sign Up Now For
HEALTHbeat
Our FREE E-mail Newsletter

In each issue of HEALTHbeat:

  • Get trusted advice from the doctors at Harvard Medical School
  • Learn tips for living a healthy lifestyle
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest developments in health
  • Receive special offers on health books and reports
  • Plus, receive your FREE Bonus Report, Living to 100: What's the secret?

[ Maybe Later ] [ No Thanks ]

Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School
Learn How

New Releases

You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Living Well with Osteoarthritis: A guide to keeping your joints healthy

Arthritis can be distracting. Distressing. And disheartening. It can make you hesitant. It can frustrate — and even prevent — you from doing all the things you love to do. It is, quite literally, a pain.

The good news is that you can live — and live well — with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. You can get relief from its pain and its consequences. This Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School will show you how.

You’ll discover advances that are making a real and lasting difference and strategies that are helping men and women reclaim mobility and banish agonizing joint pain.

Don’t let arthritis pain get in your way!

End the relentless aches and aggravation and start enjoying a more active and pain-free life once again!

The report will brief you on breakthroughs in joint replacement surgery. You’ll learn about the role of physical therapy as well as complementary procedures. And because medications remain the first line of defense, the report examines the effectiveness, safety, and possible side effects of more than 40 medications used to treat arthritis and relieve its pain.

A special section covers a host of things you can do on your own to make coping with osteoarthritis easier. You’ll be introduced to helpful tools, pain-relieving exercises, smart food and menu ideas, and more.

There’s no reason to ache when you can act! Order your copy of Living Well with Osteoarthritis today!

  • When joints cause pain
    • The musculoskeletsl system
  • What is osteoarthritis?
    • More than wear and tear
    • Possible causes of osteoarthritis  
    • Symptoms of osteoarthritis
  • Diagnosing osteoarthritis
    • Your medical history  
    • Pain and stiffness  
    • Physical examination  
    • Diagnostic tests  
  • Treating osteoarthritis without surgery
    • Drug treatment
    • Physical and occupational therapy
    • Assistive devices  
    • Complementary therapies
  • Surgical treatment of osteoarthritis
    • Arthroscopy  
    • Alternatives to joint replacement
    • Joint replacement  
  • On the horizon
    • Potential new treatments
  • SPECIAL SECTION
    • Self-care strategies for coping with arthritis
  • Other types of arthritis
    • Rheumatoid arthritis  
    • Gout
  • Appendix: Drugs for treating arthritis
  • Resources
  • Glossary

Self-care strategies for coping with arthritis: Exercise

Even the healthiest people find it difficult to stick with an exercise regimen. But those with arthritis commonly discover that if they don’t exercise regularly, they’ll pay the price in pain, stiffness, and fatigue. Regular exercise not only helps maintain joint function, but also relieves stiffness and decreases pain and fatigue. Feeling tired may be partly the result of inflammation and medications, but it’s also caused by muscle weakness and poor stamina. If a muscle isn’t used, it can lose 3% of its function every day and 30% of its bulk in just a week. A recent review of numerouse studies asserts that both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises are safe and effective for people with chronic arthritis. Below are brief summaries of different forms of structured exercise programs (most of which are offered by local Arthritis Foundation chapters) and their potential benefits.

Land-based programs. These include community-based group classes led by health or fitness professionals with specialized training in instructing people with arthritis. Examples include Fit and Strong!, a program targeted to older adults with osteoarthritis; the Arthritis Foundation’s Exercise Program (AFEP); and its Walk with Ease program. All include some combination of a warm-up routine and three standard exercise goals, plus specialized activities to enhance body awareness, balance, and coordination. Studies have found that people with arthritis in their hips, legs, and feet who took Fit and Strong! classes were able to exercise longer, felt more confident about their ability to exercise, and reported less joint stiffness compared with those in a control group. Many of the benefits lasted between six and 12 months. Those attending AFEP classes for eight weeks had less pain, stiffness, and fatigue, and these improvements persisted at least six months, as well. In one study, people who completed the Walk with Ease program (which also teaches participants about managing their disease) had more confidence, less depression, and less pain, compared with participants who attended classes focused on pain management.

Water-based programs. Also known as aquatic or pool therapy, these group classes are done in water that’s nearly 90° F and feature a variety of exercises, including range-of-motion exercises and aerobics. According to one study, people who took the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program improved knee and hip flexibility, as well as strength and aerobic fitness. Other investigations suggest water exercise lessens pain and boosts physical functioning, and the benefits after the 12-week session were sustained for three months after the last class.

Strength and resistance training. This form of exercise, which uses equipment such as weight machines, free weights, and resistance bands or tubing, strengthens not only muscles but also your bones and your cardiovascular system. Resistance training improves muscle strength, physical functioning, and pain. One Japanese study compared people with knee osteoarthritis who either took NSAIDs or did twice daily knee extension exercises to strengthen their quadriceps (the muscles on the front of the thigh). At the end of the eight-week study, both groups had less pain and stiffness, as well as improved functioning and quality of life.

Tai chi. With origins in Chinese martial arts, this low-impact, slow-motion exercise also emphasizes breathing and mental focus. A number of small studies suggest tai chi helps people with different forms of arthritis, mainly by increasing flexibility and improving muscle strength in the lower body, as well as aiding gait and balance. The Arthritis Foundation, along with Dr. Paul Lam, a family physician and tai chi instructor, developed a standardized form of tai chi designed specifically for people with arthritis. Based on Sun-style tai chi, one of the discipline’s five major recognized styles, it includes agile steps and a high stance (meaning the legs bend only slightly). 

Yoga. Scant research has explored the benefits of yoga for people with arthritis. One study showed that people with knee osteoarthritis who took eight weeks of Iyengar yoga (a form of yoga that focuses on correct body alignment, and uses blocks, belts, and other props to assist in performing postures) had less pain and could function better at the end of the study. Another study of people with rheumatoid arthritis found benefits from participating in twice-weekly Iyengar sessions for six weeks — namely, less pain and depression and greater mobility. But both studies were quite small, and neither included a comparison group.

The following reviews have been left for this report. Log in and leave a review of your own.

As far as Arthritis is concerned this is a good, solid ground. But so much is happening in research I would like a follow-up on this Special Health Report regarding genetics, biomechanical concepts and links to Crohn's disease (and Colitis), uveitis, heart disease, etc. Please?
Well written article, nice exercises and good guidance according to how you can go through it. On the other hand i feel that it could have covered a wider aspect of this issue, by writing about the physiological benefits and influence of such exercises. In that way the article can be beneficial for both students and people inside health care taking into account the deeper understanding such people can get. It is important to know that moderate strength training helps the joint (this is the result), but how in terms of microscopical physiological processes.
I have not received this report, which I paid for.
Good summary of info, but not enough emphasis on strenthing joints. More about excercise, etc. Especially for those with early phases of arthritis. Really need more comprehensive joint strengthing workout instructions. Hopefully this will be covered in "The Joint Pain Relief Workout", I am looking for instructions before the pain becomes serious.

More Like This

The Joint Pain Relief Workout: Healing exercises for your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles

The Joint Pain Relief Workout: Healing exercises for your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles

Is joint pain holding you back? Perhaps an achy ankle or sore knee is making it difficult to enjoy a run through your favorite park or even taking a short walk. Or maybe a throbbing hip or shoulder prevents you from whacking a golf ball or performing simple tasks like carrying a bag of groceries into your home. The exercises in this report can help relieve ankle, knee, hip, or shoulder pain, and help you become more active again, which can help you stay independent long into your later years.

Learn more »
Knees and Hips: A troubleshooting guide to knee and hip pain

Knees and Hips: A troubleshooting guide to knee and hip pain

Do your knees or hips hurt? Most people will at some point have knee or hip pain because these large joints have a demanding task: they must bear the full weight of your body while at the same time allowing for a wide range of motion. Wear and tear, injury, and simple genetic predisposition can all contribute to knee or hip pain. This report covers a wide range of knee and hip conditions and describes in detail treatments, preventive strategies, and surgeries.

Learn more »
Hands: Strategies for strong, pain-free hands

Hands: Strategies for strong, pain-free hands

Beneath the skin, your hands are an intricate architecture of tendons, joints, ligaments, nerves, and bones. Each of these structures is vulnerable to damage from illness or injury. If your hands hurt, even simple tasks can become a painful ordeal. This report describes the causes and treatments for many conditions that can cause hand pain. It also features information on hand exercises, as well as handy tools and other gadgets that take strain off your hands.

Learn more »