The Arthritis Newsletter

Spring 2014

"I Can't Exercise If I Have Joint Pain" - Myths and the Realities

By Sheila Kerr Edited by Nadia Prestley, Joanna Ye and Dr. Linda Li


Dispelling the Myths:


Myth: I can’t exercise if I have joint pain.




The researchers at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada (ARC) and many other researchers around the world have shown that exercise is actually useful in DECREASING joint pain from osteoarthritis (OA). Exercise is strongly recommended for the medical treatment of knee OA; in fact, it has a higher level of recommendation than medications such as anti-inflammatories or pain relievers for people with knee pain due to the onset of OA.


Myth: Being inactive won’t harm me.




Our bodies are designed to move. Exercise is medicine and it has been proven to:

  • improve mobility, aerobic fitness, co-ordination, and self-confidence
  • decrease pain, disability, and joint stiffness
  • increase bone strength and bone quality
  • reduce fatigue, anxiety, stress and mild depression
  • strengthen muscles to protect your joints
  • promote better sleep


Research at ARC has shown that weak knee muscles contribute to the progression of knee OA.


Getting help to adopt a more active lifestyle:


Why is it so hard to begin exercising if it has all these benefits?You may have to work through a little bit of discomfort on your road to including exercise into your daily routine, and it may be difficult to stay motivated. You may also worry that you will make your pain worse. However, researchers have found that a well-planned exercise regimen reduces pain both during and after aerobic exercise. Many arthritis patients have experienced the benefit of reduced knee pain from exercise and it can help people stay active, mobile and strong.


An exercise regimen should become a habit as routine as brushing your teeth every day. If you need support to make exercise a habit, help is now available in the form of an internet based education and support project called Osteoarthritis Physical Activity & Exercise Net (OPEN).



About the OPEN project:


Features of the OPEN internet program include:

  • realistic activity goal setting guidelines and reminders to help you achieve these goals
  • tips about staying active and choosing appropriate activities
  • recreation resources locations in your neighborhood
  • the latest information about OA management
  • videos that address myths and realities about OA




We are not talking about tough workouts in the gym here; in fact, a large study has shown that any type of land exercise that was done regularly resulted in improvement in pain and physical function. Maybe instead of using the word “exercise” we should talk about “active living” as a way of treating knee OA. The goal is to spend 20- 30 minutes each day where you feel a bit out of breath, have a slight sweat, a minor increase in body temperature, or a slight increase in heart rate. Even 10 minutes at a time will benefit you. Another great advantage of exercise is it does not result in unpleasant side-effects like those sometimes caused by taking medications.


Examples of activities that are promoted in the OPEN study.  Pick one that appeals to you!


Home (indoor) Home exercise prog / Housework / Playing with your kids / Aerobics: Low impact / Pilates
Home (outdoor) Raking leaves / Sweep garage/sidewalk / Washing your car / Yard work
Active at work Brisk Walking on work break / Brisk Walking to work/class / Cycling to work
Outdoor activity Bicycling / Brisk walk / Hiking / Jog/walk combo / Lawn bowling / Nordic walking/golf
In the Neighbourhood Brisk Walking / Playing with your kids / Jog/walk combo / Mall walking / Nordic walking


We want activities that fit our schedules and interests…. The OPEN program will help you set realistic goals to fit into your daily schedule and will provide you with email support from a physiotherapist who will answer your questions or find someone who will. Your conscience will be prodded with email reminders to meet your activity goals.


We want to stay active and independent as we age.  OPEN is a great tool to help you reduce your knee pain and make that ever so tough change to a more active lifestyle. It comes with all those health benefits- how great is that? It’s never too late to start!


OPEN is now recruiting 250 patients who live in BC to test the effectiveness of this tool. If you are 50 years old or older, have knee pain and have not been participating in regular physical exercise (more than 150 minutes a week) for the past 6 months, find more info on how to get involved by contacting:


Joanna Ye, Research Assistant
Email: jye@arthritisresearch.ca
Phone: 604-207-4032


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