Staying Active
with Arthritis

It’s important to
stay as active as you can

A common dilemma faced by those with persistent arthritis pain is whether or not to continue activity. As joint problems become worse, pain during or after activity is a common reason people become less active.

However, less activity leads to loss of muscle strength and endurance. Long-term stationary positions like sitting and lying can lead to loss of joint motion. That’s why it’s important to stay as active as you can.

Here are some suggestions for remaining active with arthritis:

  • Try low-impact activities such as walking, cycling, elliptical, or water-based exercise.
  • Start with less and build up in time as you find your tolerance improves.  Don’t be afraid to cut down the time if you find you are sore after the activity. Remember, it’s better to do some rather than none!
  • Use supports to help you manage these activities. For instance, a knee sleeve (see below) at the gym or walking poles for your walks outside could provide added support. If you feel better supported when walking with your walker or cane, chances are you will walk longer distances and get more exercise!
  • Plan for rest periods when performing more demanding activities. For example, you may want to sit and ice your joint after an hour or two of yard work; then try a little more.  
  • Be consistent. Aim for activity on a regular basis (think daily). Doing a variety of activities may keep you interested in staying active. It may also lead to other benefits, such as improvement in balance, endurance, mobility, and strength.

Physical Therapy & Exercise

Seeing a physical therapist is a non-surgical option for managing arthritis pain and can help you stay active. Physical therapists assess flexibility and joint range of motion, as well as muscle strength, balance and coordination

After assessing you, your physical therapist will compile a treatment plan which should include supervised exercises in a clinic and a home exercise program. They may also offer a variety of passive treatments, such as acupuncture, ultrasound, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). These may help with pain or flare-ups, but should not comprise the entire treatment plan. Your physical therapist can answer questions about your arthritis and suggest reasonable types of activity for you.

Physical therapy and exercise programs help strengthen muscles around the joint and improve flexibility. People who exercise regularly will typically have less pain and better function than those that do not.

Alongside your physical therapist, you can develop a plan to maximize your physical function, whether you need surgery for a joint replacement or are managing your joint without surgery. After joint replacement surgery, these clinics will provide an assessment and six treatments.

The Rehabilitation Advice Line is a telephone service that provides rehabilitation advice and general health information for Albertans of any age. Their toll-free number is 1-833-379-0563.

Knee Bracing

There are many different kinds of braces for knees. Braces work most effectively when you plan to be on your feet (as in standing or walking).

Knee Sleeves

Knee sleeves slide over the knee and provide compression around the knee joint. This helps control swelling and improves feedback to your brain about the position of the joint (proprioception), and thus may help manage discomfort and stiffness. Knee sleeves are low profile and can be worn under pants. They are less expensive than many hinged braces and can be purchased at pharmacies or health supply stores.

Hinged Braces

Hinged braces can provide stability for the knee, and some can unload stress from one part of the knee to a better functioning area. Many of these braces are customized and can be bulky and costly. It is best to ask your surgeon or team whether these would be appropriate for you. You will require a prescription for a customized brace.

Need more information about Arthritis?

Please refer to the Arthritis Society website or the Alberta Rheumatology website for further information on medications used to treat arthritis.

Visit the Arthritis
Society’s Website
Learn about
Injections for Arthritis
Learn about
Medication for Arthritis