Living with Osteoarthritis and the Benefits of Chair Yoga

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. While it can occur in any joint, it’s most common in the hands, knees, hips, lower back, and neck.

As the cartilage between bones breaks down, swelling and joint pain make it hard to move; it’s a major detractor to quality of life. We’re here with some advice on living with osteoarthritis and keeping mobile in your golden years.

Older man performing chair yoga in his living room

What is osteoarthritis?

Also known as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that typically starts in your 50s and is more common in women than men. 

Illustration comparing healthy ankle joint with arthritis ankle joint

Primary osteoarthritis is caused by deterioration of the joint’s tendons and ligaments and loss of cartilage – the material that cushions the joints. It’s a side effect of advancing age, joint injury, or overuse. Secondary osteoarthritis is associated with another injury or health condition.

Osteoarthritis vs Rheumatoid Arthritis

These two types of arthritis have similar symptoms but very different causes. While osteoarthritis is caused by pressure on the joints wearing them down over time, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease

RA causes pain and joint damage throughout the body and tends to affect both sides of the body equally. Doctors use this fact to distinguish between RA and other forms of arthritis; for example, osteoarthritis may affect one knee but not the other while RA will usually impact both knees equally.

Living with osteoarthritis

The joint pain and loss of range of motion caused by osteoarthritis are often detrimental to daily life. There is no cure, but with these tips, you can manage your symptoms, continue daily activities, and live a happy and healthy life.

Eat Well

At the base of any treatment is healthy eating. Obesity puts extra pressure on the affected joints. So, if you’re already carrying some extra weight, weight loss can help take pressure off your joints and help with symptoms.

If you’re already at a healthy weight, continuing to eat well and exercise will maintain your weight.

Take Your Medicine

If you’ve been prescribed medication by your healthcare team, make sure you take it! Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen are often beneficial in managing osteoarthritis pain.

Make sure to follow dosage instructions for all medications and ask your doctor if you have questions, concerns, or side effects from any medication.

Keep moving!

When you have joint pain, moving is probably the last thing you want to do. But physical activity is essential to maintaining muscle strength to support your joints. Your healthcare provider can recommend exercises or refer you to physical therapy. Some movements and exercises are actually useful in relieving osteoarthritis pain.

Regular exercise is a great pain management technique. The Arthritis Foundation recommends low-impact exercises like tai chi or water aerobics for improving strength and balance while being gentle on damaged joints.

Older woman sitting on couch holding walking caneUse Assistive Devices

Canes, walking sticks, and walkers help reduce the load on your knees and reduce pain when walking around. Using a brace or taping the joint can also help provide support to the painful joint.

For osteoarthritis of the knee, ankle, or hip, orthotics (custom-made shoe inserts) can improve body alignment when standing and walking and sometimes improve joint pain.

Emotional Wellbeing

Living with osteoarthritis is tough; flare ups of arthritis pain can make even simple activities feel overwhelming. Fear, anxiety, frustration, and anger are all common feelings after being diagnosed with osteoarthritis. And it’s okay to feel those things.

What’s important for your well-being is not dwelling on negative emotions. Remember to set aside time for leisure activities you can still do, such as reading, listening to music, or binging Netflix. Even just a day trip for a change of scenery can relieve stress and improve mood.

Chair Yoga for Osteoarthritis

Yoga is a great exercise for relieving stress as well as improving emotional health and balance. It can also provide pain relief for the neck and lower back. But for those with osteoarthritis, the thought of standing and putting pressure on already impacted weight-bearing joints probably sounds terrible.

That’s where chair yoga comes in. Chair yoga (as the name suggests) is done while sitting in a chair. This takes the extra strain off the lower body. 

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University studied the effects of chair yoga on patients with osteoarthritis. Half the participants followed the chair yoga program and the other half took health education classes. The chair yoga half reported less pain, fatigue, and joint stiffness.

Osteoarthritis Treatment

We’ve given you tips on how to live with osteoarthritis, but your condition may progress to where it needs more aggressive treatment options.

Your doctor or rheumatologist (arthritis specialist) can use X-rays as well as physical examinations to monitor the progression of your arthritis. An osteoarthritis treatment plan may consist of multiple parts.

  • Your doctor may tell you you need to lose weight to reduce strain on your joints.
  • You may be referred to a physical or occupational therapist for exercises.
  • According to the American College of Rheumatology, some patients use supplements even though they don’t all have proven effectiveness. If you’re interested in adding supplements to your treatment plan, consult with your doctor first.
  • In severe cases, you may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.

Osteoarthritis Surgery

For advanced osteoarthritis, surgery may be recommended. Arthroscopy – repair of the joint through small incisions – may be sufficient. In very extreme cases, you may need joint replacement surgery.

Joint replacement is a major surgery and as such has its pros and cons. Your medical team should go over all the expected benefits (and possible risks) with you in advance of your surgery. 

Why choose University Foot and Ankle Institute for Foot and Ankle Arthritis?

If you’re struggling with osteoarthritis in ankle or foot, our expert team is here for you. Our podiatrists offer the most advanced podiatry care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are nationally recognized foot and ankle specialists and leaders in researching, diagnosing, and treating all foot and ankle conditions and common injuries.

For a free consultation please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment online now.

Our podiatrists take patients’ safety seriously. Our podiatry facility’s Covid-19 patient safety procedures exceed all the CDC’s coronavirus pandemic recommendations. Masks are always required in our institutes.

University Foot and Ankle Institute is conveniently located throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area as our foot doctors are available at locations in or near Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Northridge, Downtown Los Angeles, Westlake Village, Granada Hills, and Valencia.

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