Many of us will know someone who has suffered/is suffering from arthritis, perhaps you are developing the disease or suffering yourself. Arthritis is a very common and potentially debilitating disease where your joints become painful, inflamed, and stiff due to lack of nutrients and fluid around the joints; it has become the nations primary cause of disability. However, this outcome is not inevitable if you take the right precautions.
Common symptoms of arthritis are seen in and around the affected areas as redness, warmth, pain, tenderness. So, we can understand that when experiencing these symptoms, exercise might not seem like the most appealing or helpful idea. However, no matter what type of arthritis you might suffer from, you need to keep moving in order to see positive results.
Pilates is here to help in many ways. The most obvious benefit is what we have touched upon in previous posts; the increase of blood flow and use of controlled breath to transport fluid and nutrients around the body (the prime cause of arthritis being a lack of).
Through a series of low-impact exercises, strength training, and stretching, Pilates will improve your flexibility, range of movement, build/strengthen muscles, improve endurance, relieve and prevent stiffness, decrease fatigue, and just as importantly de-stress the mind and body for an increased quality of life.
Stress and anxieties can affect the body beyond our belief. When we are tense, we cause internal tension within the organs and muscles, thus placing extra pressures on our joints. Some of us without arthritis might relate to stress related pain or injury. I often suffer from shoulder/back pain when I am anxious! The mindful movements in Pilates enable to mind and body to focus, release tension, and relax.
The reason why building and strengthening muscle is important, is to stabilise the joints. When our muscles become stronger we are able to utilise them more in every day movement which relieves some of the main pressures on our joints. Lack of movement and too much rest will let the muscles degenerate and waste away, thus relying on the joints to support the body = more arthritic syptoms.
Fitness level is the other sometimes forgotten benefit of Pilates, however it is a vital component to improve this disease in particular. Body weight is directly related to the severity of your arthritis. The more weight you carry, the more pressure you load on to your joints, the worse your symptoms will become (especially to the knees and ankles in this case), this is what will increase your risk of disability.
Of course, when joints are inflamed, you need to take it easy. Resting for 2 to 3 days during a flare-up is advised and you should’t be discouraged; listen to your body. Just keep in mind anyone at any age can get arthritis and if left untreated you can cause damage to the joints, bones, organs and even skin.
Pilates can be a part of a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan; all you have to lose is pain and arthritis.