Managing Arthritis Pain During Lockdown

Rhian Davies, Clinic Director and Lead Physio at one2one Therapy explains how patients shielding due to COVID-19 can manage arthritis pain in lockdown.

Arthritis is an incredibly painful condition, however the core treatment for osteoarthritis is exercise (as recommended by the NICE guidelines). During lockdown, while exercise is permitted, many clients, particularly elderly clients, are staying indoors and are exercising far less frequently than normal.

Exercise is really important to manage arthritis, it helps in both reducing pain and restoring function by improving the range of movement of the joint and strengthening the muscles that support it, so staying still and sitting in your chair all day in lockdown is likely to make the situation worse. 

Getting the right exercise, and learning your limitations is key to managing it – so if you are shielding indoors, and really can’t get out to walk or cycle, our advice is to keep exercising in other ways, for your general health, your arthritis and your mental health.

Body movement is the key, you can even do this whilst sat in a chair or standing if your mobility is impaired. There are some videos of seated and standing exercises on our website you could try. If your mobility is good, you may want to do some gardening, go up and down the stairs or a step for 10 mins, do some body weight exercises or an online workout. If you wanted something more intense for building muscle strength you could try one of our online classes with our physiotherapists.

Staying active is crucial, but it is also important to know your limitations and not overdo it to avoid flaring up your condition. Pace yourself- Little and often is the key!

Think about starting slowly and increasing the length and intensity of exercise in small steps. You may have a slight increase in pain when you first start, but this should improve as your confidence and strength improves. Improving your general fitness and stamina will help you to increase your activity level without increasing your pain. Regular exercises will also stimulate the production of your body’s natural pain-relieving hormone (endorphins).

If you have run out of painkillers and are waiting for someone to collect your prescription, you will be amazed at how effective cold and heat packs can be.

Cold packs can relieve an inflammed joint and hot packs can soothe stiff achy joints. You can make your own cold packs by wrapping a bag of frozen peas in a towel and applying it to the area for 10 mins. Make sure it’s not applied directly to the skin or you may suffer from an ice burn. You can use a hot water bottle as a hot pack or have a soak in a hot bath. Again make sure it’s not too hot as you don’t want to burn yourself. Alternatively you can purchase hot and cold packs which can either go in the freezer or microwave and usually consist of gel or wheat.

If you are struggling with pain or swelling, our physiotherapists can teach you specific exercises for your condition and give you expert advice in a remote physiotherapy appointment via video messaging or telephone. They will address any concerns you may have and will set appropriate goals to keep you as active as possible.

Our overall message is that lockdown should not equate to being in pain.

The one2one team are still available to support our clients, young and old, throughout lockdown and while our methods of seeing clients may have changed, the same supportive ethos, commitment and professionalism can still be accessed at home – don’t struggle with arthritis pain, we’re here to help.

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