Arthritis encompasses more than 100 related diseases of the joints. Typical symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, joint deterioration and deformity. In the United States, it is estimated that between 30 and 60 million people are victims of arthritis.
The most prevalent forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Our focus will be on osteoarthritis as it is by far the most common form of the disease and it usually effects people over the age of 50. Rheumatoid arthritis usually finds its victims in the 20 to 40 age group.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, thought to be the result of wear & tear on the effected joints. Repeated injuries and or surgeries are also considered to be contributing factors.
The joints most frequently affected are those of the hands, wrists, hips, knees, lower back, and neck. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage between the bones can deteriorate to the point that there is little or no remaining cushion between the bones of an affected joint. In advanced cases, the bones actually rub against each other causing friction and further cartilage deterioration. The patient usually experiences pain, swelling, stiffness, and/or joint deformity which can, in some cases, lead to severe disability.
Traditional treatments generally include pain killing drugs, steroid injections into the joints, or surgical joint replacement. Osteoarthritis does not affect other organs of the body, however some of the drug therapies can.
Osteoarthritis causes a deterioration of the cartilage and fluids that protect & cushion the bones of the joints involved.
Traditional treatments have focused on pain relief only. Steroid injections, non-perscription pain killers and cox-2 inhibitors such as Celebrex and Vioxx can provide temporary pain relief, however the dangerous side effects, such as stroke, heart attack, and ulcers associated with long term use of these drugs can be worse for the patient in the long run. Unfortunately these treatments do not address the real problem which is that the joints involved are continuing to deteriorate.
The good news is that recent research and clinical trials have confirmed that there is a much safer treatment for osteoarthritis. A treatment that combines exercise therapy with a nutritional joint supplement.
Major medical teaching institutions and pharmaceutical companies are now recommending, along with their drug therapies, what our experience with osteoarthritis patients in exercise therapy programs has taught us over the years. For example from Johns Hopkins University:
Regular exercise can keep the muscles around affected joints strong, decrease bone loss and help control joint swelling and pain.
Regular activity/exercise replenishes lubrication to the cartilage of the joint and reduces stiffness and pain.
The therapeutic importance of exercise & physical activity in the management of arthritis is new to many patients & physicians.
Patients with arthritis need clear messages (from their doctors) about the benefits of exercise for people with arthritis.
Lack of physical activity/exercise is associated with increased muscle weakness, joint stiffness, reduced range of motion, fatigue and general deconditioning.
Exercise needs to be directed at the entire body, and not just the joints that are affected with arthritis.
The Fitness Arthritis and Seniors Trial (the largest clinical trial to evaluate the effect of exercise on arthritis), included 439 adults aged 60 and older, found that those in the study that exercised regularly had significant improvements in symptoms of physical disability, improved physical performance and reduced pain.
Daily range of motion/flexibility exercises are a very important factor pertaining to the health and maintenance of joint cartilage. Cartilage does not have blood vessels to provide nutrients. In order to receive adequate nutrition from seepage through the surrounding membrane, cartilage requires regular compression and decompression to absorb nutrients & stimulate remodeling and repair.
Proper nutrition & hydration are important to the health & well being of every cell in our body. Recent studies have found that nutritional supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, & fish oil (containing omega 3 & 6 fatty acids) provide a beneficial & nutritionally rich environment that supports the natural growth & repair of joint cartilage and helps to reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis.
We know that our exercise programs help people with osteoarthritis by increasing range of motion, strengthening muscle groups (which stabilize & protect affected joints), reducing bone loss, providing needed nutrition to the joints and by reducing swelling & pain. For those reasons, we recommend people with osteoarthritis use our Personal Fitness seated exercise video regularly or our Tone & Sculpt exercise video.(see video description below, to determine which program is best for you.)
The Tone & Sculpt Program
Tone & Sculpt DVD ($19.95)
is an excellent 45 minute resistance training program designed to firm & tone all major muscle groups &
strengthen your back. This flexible program allows you to vary the intensity to match your comfort level.
It is a good choice for those who prefer to use a walking program or another cardio program on alternate days.
The Personal Fitness Program
is intended for people who prefer a more gentle, seated program due to knee, back or
other weakness. It is well suited for people that are not very active, are older, or overweight.