May is Arthritis Awareness Month, which makes this a good time to learn more about a condition that affects over 58 million people in the U.S., or approximately 1 in 4 adults.
Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age.
The two most common types of arthritis — osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis — damage joints in different ways:
Severe arthritis, particularly if it affects your hands or arms, can make it difficult for you to perform daily tasks. Arthritis of weight-bearing joints can keep you from walking comfortably or sitting up straight. In some cases, joints may become twisted and deformed. Arthritis pain can interfere with your daily activities and enjoyment of life.
Exercise is crucial for people with arthritis. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue. But with stiff and painful joints, exercise might not seem doable. You might think exercise will aggravate your joint pain and stiffness, but lack of exercise can make your joints even more painful and stiff.
What types of exercises are best for you depends on your type of arthritis and which joints are involved. Your health care team can work with you to find the exercise plan that gives you the most benefit with the least aggravation of your joint pain.
Recommended exercises for people with arthritis include: