Flexibility Exercises for Arthritis

Man doing tai chi

While practicing flexibility exercises for arthritis will not cure the condition, if performed on a regular basis, a well-designed flexibility program can certainly alleviate the symptoms. Given that arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, it behooves sufferers to have an understanding of the benefits of flexibility exercises.

What is Arthritis?

The word "arthritis" is composed of "arthro," meaning "joint," and "it is," meaning "inflammation." As such, arthritis is a condition that results in inflammation of the joints. A decrease in synovial fluid is a side effect of this condition. Synovial fluid is responsible for reducing the articular cartilage and the other tissues in the joints. This in turn lubricates the joints for movement. Needless to say, a decrease in synovial fluid means that flexibility, as well as fluidity of movement will be greatly compromised. As such, a program of flexibility exercises for arthritis is of the utmost importance.

The Importance of Flexibility Exercises for Arthritis

People who suffer from arthritis often experience a decreased range of motion. This is especially evident in the joints of the lower extremities. Lack of flexibility in the hip area is associated with frequent pain and falling. Lack of flexibility in the hands and fingers will impede the ability to perform simple household tasks, as well as work-related tasks, such as typing on the computer. Flexibility exercises for arthritis may alleviate this pain. In doing so, range of motion, and therefore functionality, may be restored. There are other benefits. Performing flexibility exercises in the evening may lead to a more restful sleep, while performing them in the morning may relieve morning stiffness.

Here's something else to consider. In general, arthritis affects people over 45. However, as the economy forces more people to remain in the workforce well into their 60s, it becomes important to consider the effect that arthritis pain has on the entire productivity rate of our society. If over 52.5 million people in the United States are suffering from arthritis, how functional can these people be on a daily basis? Everyone should thus be responsible for making friends and co-workers aware of the benefits of arthritis exercises.

Types of Arthritis Flexibility Exercises

There are two types of flexibility exercises; static flexibility and dynamic flexibility. Both can be beneficial to sufferers of arthritis. Static flexibility involves getting into a position and holding it for a minimum of 20 seconds. Yoga is an excellent example of static stretching. Since Hatha Yoga is the gentlest form, it is frequently recommended for arthritis. Given that excessive heat may promote swelling if the joints, most arthritis sufferers are advised to avoid Bikram Yoga classes. Dynamic flexibility could be defined as "flexibility in motion." It is also known as functional flexibility, since it enhances your ability to perform the functional tasks of daily living. Tai chi is an excellent example of dynamic flexibility exercise. In fact, an article in Reuters provided interesting insight into the benefits of tai chi for sufferers of arthritis. Apparently, in a study performed by Dr. Chenchen Wang of Tufts Medical Center in Boston, tai chi does a better job at alleviating arthritic knee pain than does traditional static stretching.

In the study, a group of arthritis sufferers in their 60s performed tai chi for an hour, twice a week for 12 weeks. The other group spent the same amount of time performing conventional static stretches. The tai chi group experienced greater pain reduction, far less depression and overall improvements in functional fitness and general health.

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Flexibility Exercises for Arthritis