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What activities can help people with joint pain? Add to ...

Question

I've heard that certain sports or physical activities can benefit individuals suffering joint pain from arthritis or other autoimmune diseases. What sort of activities can help?

Answer

Increased motion can benefit many of those suffering from several types of arthritis including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis - as well as other autoimmune diseases such as fibromyalgia and ankylosing spondylitis.

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Low-impact is the key when it comes to choosing activities that are beneficial for your joints. Activities that include stretching, such as yoga or Pilates, are excellent for improving joint flexibility and range of motion.

Yoga is incredibly effective at managing pain and mobility issues that accompany many forms of arthritis and autoimmune diseases. And because yoga has several styles with varying degrees of difficulty, people can adjust their yoga participation and work to their comfort level.

Alternatively, many activities that take place in water - such as swimming or water aerobics - are wonderful for many people suffering from chronic joint pain because the water takes the weight-bearing load off your joints.

Something as simple as walking on grass or wood chips rather than pavement can make an intolerable activity enjoyable again. If you're thoughtful about it, you can tailor your physical activity to your joint ability whatever it may be.

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which results from wear and tear on the joints.

Another form is rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that stems from an inappropriate immune response. The body's disease-fighting immune system attacks a person's own tissues, in particular the joints.

We know that one's immune response is affected by many different factors. If you're able to get up, get out and move, it will reduce your pain level. This will affect your emotional status, and we know this has some influence on your immune response.

Is it going to prevent progression of the disease? No, but it's going to make you have a more meaningful day-to-day existence and give you a better quality of life, which is really important.

Increasing your activity level with low-impact sports allows you to take responsibility for your quality of life, and when that is accompanied by working with your physician to manage your pain and a treatment regimen - that's a win-win combination.

Dr. Eleanor Fish is director of the Arthritis & Autoimmunity Research Centre at the University Health Network in Toronto.

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