Pursuing an Active Life With Arthritis

Pursuing an Active Life With Arthritis

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. But with a few simple adjustments, life can be easier and less painful for the millions of people who now permit this common condition to limit what they are able to do and enjoy.

The changes can be as simple as playing with grandchildren on the couch or at a table, instead of on the floor, said one knowledgeable grandfather, Dr. Kenneth Brandt, who is also an orthopedic surgeon and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

The trick is to decide what activities are important to you and then modify them in ways that ease symptoms like pain, stiffness and fatigue. Arthritis may be a mechanical disability, but it need not turn people into couch potatoes.

“There’s a whole body to pay attention to,” Dr. Brandt said in an interview. “You shouldn’t neglect everything else that’s important to you and to your general health, including physical activity.”

Even with relatively advanced arthritis, it is important to maintain an exercise regimen, with modifications as needed to minimize overuse of damaged joints.

“You should exercise affected joints,” Dr. Brandt said. “Muscles around the joints can atrophy — use them or lose them — and result in even more pain and stiffness.” He suggested consulting a physical therapist or exercise physiologist to help design “an exercise program that permits loading joints appropriately.”

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