Crush Arthritis with Strength Training
Have you been told you have arthritis or wear and tear of your joints? Perhaps you’ve been told by a well intentioned doctor or therapist to stop weight training? This kind of dialogue strikes fear into the heart of many of us and is possibly the single most useless piece of advice you’ll get about your arthritis because; You can absolutely crush your arthritis with your strength training, in fact, it’s encouraged and will benefit your condition!
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. It can affect one joint or multiple and there are more than 100 different types of arthritis with different causes and treatments. However, one of the most common types, and the one you may be experiencing, is Osteoarthritis (OA). The ends of your bones are covered with protective tissues called cartilage and with OA, this cartilage breaks down, causing the bones within the joint to rub together.
Common Symptoms of Osteoarthritis include:
– Loss of Flexibility
– ‘Grating’ Sensation
– Overall Limited Function
Factors that Increase your Risk of Osteoarthritis include:
– Joint Injuries
– Muscle Weakness
– Sex (women being most likely)
– Repeated Stress on the joint
– Bone Deformities
Training With Arthritis
Traditional therapeutic interventions are aimed at reducing loading across the joint surfaces to preserve the cartilage integrity. But, that’s exactly the opposite of what you should be doing! Weight lifting, when you have arthritis, is the best thing your can do for your joints. Lifting weights will not make your arthritis any worse. In fact, researchers have found that strength training programs have reduced pain in participants of their studies by 35% and have also increased limb strength and function! Muscle-building and strength exercises are incredibly important in managing your arthritis and you shouldn’t stop doing them once being diagnosed with OA. In fact, OA is a normal process of against, and yup, it happens to everyone.But it doesn’t have to be a death sentence!
Stopping weight training is a double whammy. Not only are you removing the stimulation to joint surfaces to encourage remodelling, you’re also taking away the additional support and stability gained from muscle hypertrophy. If you stop weight training and start to lose muscle tissue, you’ll also lose strength and joint stability. The additional support provided by increased muscle strength can translate to a decrease in arthritis symptoms and improve your daily function and your training. Overall, load and strength is needed to crush your arthritis and you’ll see a decrease in pain and stiffness really soon!
Benefits of Training with Osteoarthritis:
– Strengthen the Muscles Around Your Joints
– Help you Maintain Bone Strength
– Give you More Energy through the Day
– Make it Easier to get a Good Night’s Sleep
– Help You Control Your Weight
– Enhance Your Quality of Life
– Improve Your Balance/Stability
Resuming Weight Training after Diagnosis:
If you’ve taken a break from training after your diagnosis, scale things back and ease yourself in. You’ll need time to progressively reload your tissues. Try easing your joints into the exercises you may not have done for a while. If you push too hard and too fast, you’ll aggravate delicate and inflamed tissues and you’ll also increase your risk of injury. (Read our blog post here about Progressive Overload while injured)
And although I’m a huge advocates for strength and weight training to crush your arthritis, please train smart, extend your warm-up and cool-down time, stay hydrated, stop if anything hurts/if you feel new pains, and make sure you ask your therapist about specific muscle-strengthening exercises!
Other Arthritis Recommendations
Sleep & Rest
Rest is a key component in the management of Osteoarthritis! No, not sitting on the sofa eating Doritos. I’m talking about making sure you allow yourself enough time between training sessions to recover. In the same way we need rest and recovery from a workout, we need rest and recovery for our joints. Listening to your body and resting when appropriate will help lower your overall pain, but also minimise your chances of a flare up. If you notice pain, swelling, or increased heat around the affected joint, it may be time to take a break! This isn’t something to push through, you need to listen to your body’s cues, your body knows best. Finding a balance between being active and resting is key here. Too much rest and the joints become stiff and sore and too little rest will aggravate the condition. Overall, try and find a happy balance with your body and listen to its cues.
Hot & Cold Therapy
Heat and Cold therapy works by stimulating your body’s own healing abilities. It’s best to play around with which feels better for you, hot or cold. Painful joints don’t always like direct on them. I’ve found heat to be generally better tolerated and a better way to reduce pain. Warm towels, heating pads, showers, hot water bottles or saunas can be helpful. Apply this type of treatment for about 20 minutes. Ice/cold will help reduce inflammation not just directly but systemically. Like I say, I’m not a fan of direct cold therapy to joints, but love using cold water immersion therapy to modify pain. This is best applied away from training as the cold can have a blunting effect on hypertrophy. Avoid cold therapy within 2 hours of training. Better still, use cold water immersion therapy on rest days. There’s no need to buy expensive pools, simply fill a bath with cold water and chuck a couple of bags of ice in. Or take a cold shower. Before using heat or cold therapy, be sure your skin is dry and free from cuts and sores, and always protect your skin with a towel. If you have visible skin damage, it’s best not to use this method of therapy.
Diet & Supplements
An anti-inflammatory diet can always be helpful in treating conditions like Osteoarthritis, afterall, it means that your joints are inflamed! Foods that can be helpful include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fresh herbs, and spices. Specifically dark leafy greens, oatmeal, turmeric, walnuts, almonds, garlic, ginger, blackberries, cherries, and garbanzo beans can all be helpful!
Inflammatory foods you should consider reducing or eliminating include: processed meat, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, candy, bread, pasta, pastries, cereal, cookies, cakes, soft drinks, and all processed foods that contain added sugar or flour.
Inflammation can occur for many different reasons. Although it’s sometimes hard to prevent, you can have much more control over factors like your diet! To stay as healthy as possible, keep inflammation down by minimizing your consumption of foods that trigger it and eat as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible!
Shockwave Therapy & Medical Acupuncture
Shockwave Therapy is a powerful and non-invasive solution for pain and inflammation issues and delivers rapid and sustainable results. It consists of low energy shock waves targeted to treat injuries and other painful conditions, like arthritis. Medical Acupuncture is a form of specialised acupuncture that we use as part of the integrated approach for the management of pain, inflammation, and as a means of enhancing the body’s own healing pathways. I use Medical Acupuncture in addition to manual therapy and electrotherapy techniques to accelerate your recovery and reduce pain of arthritis.
Other forms of therapy and therapists include physical therapy, massage therapy, osteopaths, and more. You can do your research and figure out which therapy seems right for you or you can head to our website to see some of the variety of therapies we use at the clinic!
Summary – Crushing Arthritis with Strength Training
Osteoarthritis is absolutely not some sort of death sentence and it’s something I’m confident you can crush. Your joints will thank you for adding a strength training programme to your rehab. Team Mofo are trained therapists passionate about the principles of rehabilitation. We want to optimise your healing, avoid aggravating your injuries, and most importantly, keep you training. Our motto “No Days Off” is about finding ways to keep you in the gym while rehabbing you back to full fitness as quickly as possible.
I want to make you bulletproof, arthritis or not! Book a consultation here of you need help crushing your arthritis.
Train smart and we’ll see you soon!
The Mofo Team