Well there’s been plenty of reason to stay inside and out of the cold this Winter, but truth be known it’s actually more of a case of NOT being allowed outside for anything more than the most essential reasons. And whilst an arthritic joint doesn’t tend to cope too well in the colder weather (letting us know by just constantly nagging and aching and stiffening up) generating some internal joint heat through movement and exercise goes a long way towards improving the health status of our joint.

Now the restrictions are slowly easing, the weather is gradually improving, and the blossoms are telling us that this is the time of year for growth! And just like those beautiful blossoms we see everywhere at the moment, Spring is a time when we should be really moving forwards with purpose and ensuring we get back into good physical shape and getting our arthritic joints back into the best condition we can – and that condition is often far better than we could imagine! 

So what is stopping you from getting back into exercise? We know exactly what it is – stiffness, weakness, instability, pain during exercise, ache after exercise, cracking and crunching with movement. Whether you suffer any or all of these symptoms, you must realise that NONE are a reason to not exercise!

Usually, many arthritis sufferers are willing to accept that their joint has deteriorated because we’ve just come out of winter; or because it has been hard to exercise with restrictions; or because the usual exercise facilities likes pools, hydro sessions, gyms etc have been closed; or the most common: “I’m another year older and my joint has just deteriorated with age”.

But like we say that all those pain, stiffness, weakness excuses are not a reason to stop exercising, likewise we must realise that none of the above seasonal, lockdown, or age excuses are valid reasons for our joints to get worse.

And for those that are just biding time to have some surgery or a joint replacement, consider this:

The COVID situation and elective surgery lockdown has put unprecedented pressure on both the public and private hospital systems. Statistics from the Victorian Agency for Health Information tell us that on June 30th 2019 there were just over 20,000 Category 3 (assessed as requiring surgery within 12 months) patients on the surgery wait list. As at June 30 2020, there are just over 30,000 people on the Category 3 wait list – that’s an increase of 50%!

Combine these numbers with the fact that we know that general joint “clean outs”, in many cases, are not the best course of action, and can actually lead to an acceleration of future degenerative changes within that joint. We also know that a lot of joint surgery and even joint replacements can be completely avoided if a good strength, diet and education program can be put in place. One of the great things with the GLA:D program (exercise for arthritis sessions we run at SSPC) is the amount of people that have not only reduced their pain levels and increased their function, but have cancelled surgery as they have realised they no longer need it.

And even if you do proceed to surgery, the stronger your knee is pre operatively, the better your post operative outcomes are likely to be!

There are so many compelling reasons to get your joints moving, get your muscles stronger, improve your function and quality of life, but it all takes ACTIVE INTERVENTION on your behalf. No passive modality or intervention will ever be as successful as a good all round program that involves active exercise. There is no miracle brace, or tablet, or crutch, or magnet, or massage tool that will help you more than getting active.

Understandably it isn’t easy to know what to do, when to do it, how many, how often and the list goes on. But that is why we are here. Finding not only the right exercise, but also knowing the optimal resistance/repetitions/sets/positions/depths etc are all part of what makes a great arthritis program. Many of the arthritis based exercises we prescribe can easily be performed in your own home with next to no equipment.

So as we spring into the great season of growth and warmth, make it a priority to get your stiff and painful joints moving again – whatever reason you may have to not exercise, we’ve got a better reason for you to exercise! Just ask for help!

Anthony Lance

SSPC Physiotherapist