I am of the opinion that believe it or not, there are some things that you can do to help your own arthritis / stiffness problems. Simple, easy things that take just a little time every day, yet given a little bit of input and the word that I used above – dedication, you will be surprised at the benefits.
Improving Joint Mobility and Suppleness: To increase your range of motion, let’s say with a knee joint, sit in a comfortable chair and stretch the leg out in front of you move a joint as far as it can go and then try to push a little farther. Hold for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat the exercise as often as you can manage but never work through the pain if it is excessive, but these exercises can be done any time, even when your joints are painful or swollen, as long as you do them gently. Persistence is the key. Don’t give up.
Better Muscle Strength: Elaborate equipment isn’t needed. You can use your own body weight as resistance to build muscle. For example, this simple exercise can help ease the strain on your knees by strengthening your thigh muscles and in turn, it will help your knee. After all, a knee joint is supported by muscles that cross over the joint and in a way; the muscles above connect below the knee while the muscle below connect above the knee. Think about it – if they didn’t, the knee would fall apart. After completing a few repetitions of the exercises above, remain sitting in the chair in the chair. Now stand up by using only your thigh muscles (use your arms for balance only). Keep your back straight and look straight ahead. Stand a moment, then sit back down, using only your thigh muscles. Repeat a few times. Then rest.
Strength and Durability.Aerobic exercise — such as walking, swimming, and bicycling — strengthens your heart and lungs and thereby increases endurance and overall health. Sticking to activities that don’t jar your joints is probably the best thing to do and the reason why I continually suggest that walking is the best exercise in the world. Dodge high-impact activities such as jogging and if you’re having a flare-up of symptoms, wait until it subsides before doing these stamina exercises.
Better Balance. Too many people these days I hear suffer from balance problems. Often it’s a lack of hydration that causes the problem. So keeping the body hydrated is key. Three pints of water or fluid (tea, fruit juice) drunk through the day should be the norm. In my book ‘Getting Your Own Back’ [about how I managed to overcome my own back-pain problems] I wrote a chapter about the importance of drinking water. I quote:
“The human body was developed from a species that were given life in water, which allowed that the dependence on the life giving properties was inherited. Thus we all know that we need water to survive. Every cell, tissue, organ and body process requires water. We need the water to carry food, minerals and vitamins via the blood stream to the various parts of our bodies. Water transports away toxins and it also helps to regulate our body temperature. We could last up to 10 weeks without food, but we would die after 10 days without water. The human body is composed of 25% solid matter and 75% water. The brain is said to consist of 85% water. In death the energetic framework collapses and we dry out. We return to dust. In life it is the solvent – the water content – that regulates all functions of the body.
My understanding is that we should drink three pints (1.5 litres) of water every day. There is no need to purchase expensive mineral water, but you can if you wish and you have the money for it. The French are mad about it. In the morning I fill a jug, place a piece of kitchen paper on top to keep out the dust and simply leave it sitting on the kitchen table for an hour or so. The water from the tap will probably contain fluoride and chlorine (a bacteria killing agent) to keep it in pristine condition as it passes through the pipes. Leaving it for a while allows the chemicals to evaporate, with the result that the water then tastes just as it should when it left the loch, lake or reservoir from whence it came. As the day goes on, each time I pass the jug I will have a sip; a mouthful at a time. Thus during the day and with little effort I am able to drink my three pints.
Plenty of water in the system will help, but there are also some simple ways to help your balance. For example, stand with your weight on both feet. Then try lifting one foot while you balance on the other foot for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Over time, work your way up to 30 seconds on each foot. Yoga and tai chi are also good for balance too. Yoga can have problems if your joints are stiff or if you suffer with back-pain, but I like the gentle nature of tai chi and admire the older generation of Chinese people that I have often seen out in public parks going through their routines – no matter how old they may be. Plenty of suggestions for classes that you can do at home can be found on-line.