Moger: Exercise can combat arthritis

While most people are aware of arthritis, many do not know of the disabling and life-changing effects it has.

World Arthritis Awareness Day is Oct. 12.

While most people are aware of arthritis, many do not know of the disabling and life-changing effects it has.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the oldest and most common forms of arthritis,a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage.

Cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement of joints.

The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint. It is most common in the weight-bearing joints of the hips, knees and lower back.

Statistics show:

• more than 10 per cent of Canadian adults are affected by arthritis

• joint damage caused by OA accounts for more than 80 per cent of hip replacement surgery and over 90 per cent of knee replacements

• in Canada. 4.6 million, or one in six, Canadians report having arthritis

• by 2031, approximately seven million Canadians (one in five) are expected to have arthritis

• arthritis costs the Canadian economy more than $33 billion annually

• more than six per cent of total hospitalizations in Canada are associated with arthritis.

• almost 1,000 Canadians died from arthritis in 2005.

Despite the frequency of the disease, its cause is still not completely known and there is no cure. Many factors may play a role in whether you get OA, including age, obesity, injury or overuse and genetics. If there were a perfect excuse not to exercise, arthritis pain would be it. After all, who feels motivated to exercise when they are in pain?

Pushing yourself to exercise when your body hurts isn’t easy, but research shows that exercise will not only improve your mood increase flexibility and range of motion but over time decrease the pain associated with arthritis.

Did you know you are ’feeding your joints when you exercise? Your cartilage (the gristle that protects the end of your bones) relies on movement to absorb nutrients and remove waste. What more reason to get moving? Be cautious though, as exercising with cold muscles can cause pain and possibly injury. If you have arthritis, you will need to do a longer warm up or you may want to consider a warm bath or apply heat packs to joints before exercising. It gets the synovial fluid flowing, which lubricates the joint.

Many doctors will recommend an exercise program in a warm pool for these reasons and also because of the low impact. Fibrofit is such a program held at Hawthorn Park and is available for those suffering with arthritis, fibromyalgia and other inflammatory diseases.