Physical activity can be very beneficial for easing the symptoms of arthritis of the spine. For instance, regular exercise can help relieve pain, enhance flexibility, increase strength, boost energy and reduce fatigue. Range-of-motion, strengthening and aerobic activities can be particularly good. Because back pain can make it difficult to move, however, the idea of walking around the block or swimming even just a few laps may seem overwhelming when you are dealing with the effects of spinal arthritis on a daily basis.
While many people believe that exercise will aggravate their arthritis pain, the opposite is actually true. In fact, a lack of movement can cause the muscles that support the spine to weaken, creating additional stress on damaged spinal joints and causing further pain and stiffness. The key is finding an appropriate fitness regimen and sticking with it.
How to exercise safely with spinal arthritis
Before you begin a new workout program, it’s important to talk with a physician who can help you select appropriate activities based on a number of individual factors, including the specific type of arthritis of the spine that you have and the location of the joints that are affected. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Take your time. Move gently at first to allow your joints sufficient time to warm up before performing aerobic or strengthening exercises.
- Keep the impact low. Low-impact exercises such as walking, cycling, swimming and pool therapy can be effective while minimizing the strain on your spinal joints.
- Apply heat or ice as needed. Heat-based treatments, such as a heating pad, warm towel or hot shower, can help relieve pain and relax taut muscles, while ice applications can reduce painful swelling.
- Progress cautiously. You can expect to experience some pain at first, especially if you’ve been inactive for a while. However, if you sense that a certain movement and activity might be too much for you, trust your instincts and stop. Instead, try to increase the time and intensity of your workouts gradually.
What to do if exercise does not provide sufficient relief from spinal arthritis symptoms
If you’ve reached the point where you’re considering more advanced treatments, such as surgery, to address your spinal osteoarthritis symptoms, contact USA Spine Care. We can provide a free MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery to address arthritis of the spine.