One woman feel her knees seizing up. She had recently turned 70, and knew it was the arthritis her doctors has warned her about-it was getting worse. She loved walking in her San Diego neighborhood, and she didn’t want to give up her independence. “I decide to keep walking with my friends-and the I joined a Zumba class.” Fourteen years later, she still walks and takes exercise classes, and now she squeezes in yoga, too. – Her story may sound crazy, but she was actually doing what felt good-and what science has proven works. Exercise can do wonders to help reduce your pain, whether you’re coping with arthritis and joint pain, autoimmune conditions, pain from an old injury or even chronic fatigue.
How could jarring exercise help ease sore joints? Research suggests that by strengthening surrounding muscles, exercise can ease pressure on the join. Even better, it can actually help repair the joint, according to recent research. Collecting data from 28 studies involving nearly 10, 000 participants. Australian researchers took a long, careful look at problems exercise might create for knee joints. Experts believed that the jarring motion of regular walking or running would damage cartilage, the spongy material between bones. The Australians found the opposite was true: Over time, cartilage seemed to increase in response to regular exercise, and the cushiony material had fewer defects in walkers and runners than in nonexercisers. All exercisers’ knees were more likely to have bony spurs called osteophytes, but the researchers believe those may be a useful adaption that helps protect cartilage.
Knees aren’t the only joint to benefit. In fact, the most complicated joint in your body-your spine-may need regular exercise to feel right: In a Finnish study, researchers concluded that being highly active reduced the risk of chronic lower-back pain by 16 percent compared to the risk of those who don’t exercise regularly. There’s more to why exercise is such a natural pain reliever. “The foremost way exercise helps ease pain is to keep all of the joints and soft tissues structures balanced with regards to flexibility and strength”, says one physical therapist from Lodi, California. ” Joints are designed to work in an optimal mechanical fashion which is maintained by strengthening the muscles that surround it”. When the muscles around the joint are too tight or inflexible, the joint and muscle both cannot work effectively. “When our muscles become overworked in a non-optimal pattern, this can also cause us to experience pain.”
As those who suffer from chronic pain can attest: This kind of discomfort can interfere with day-to-day life in a way that’s debilitating and can keep you from doing the things you love. “Pain of any kind can lead to a fear of movement, weakness of muscles and an inability to move in your usual way, making it difficult to do your normal daily tasks,” says one physical therapist from New York City. This is particularly true for those struggling with osteoarthritis. “Exercise can help manage the symptoms of pain, Exercise won’t cure the arthritis, but it can improve someone’s perception stiffness and pain.”
FACT: In one recent review of research, the authors reported that exercise could relieve pain almost immediately for chronic sufferers. Patients feel better after just one or two sessions of pool aerobics, tai chi, yoga and even weight training. And the activity helped restore mobility.