January 11, 2012

A New Affliction (Arthritis) but Same Old Remedy (Exercise)

Given last year's developments, I should rename this blog "Aging and Parkinson's and Prostate Cancer and Arthritis"... and perhaps dementia? It's not unusual -- as we journey into our 80s -- to pick up additional affliction baggage.

When I crashed my car and fractured a vertebrae in August, doctors said the bones would heal in about four months, and the back pain would subside. Sure enough, the December X-rays showed the fracture had healed... but the back pain remained.

I've now learned the pain is caused by increasing arthritis in my lower back. Arthritis is a chronic illness that would presumably keep me company until I die, like my Parkinson's and prostate cancer -- which continues to exist, according to PSA tests, after surgery in 1995. Those tests showed the cancer grew very slowly for years, until "my number" took a big leap upward last summer.

Arthritis is something new. But there's also something old -- the No. 1 recommended therapy is EXERCISE.
I've written about a variety of ailments. For almost all of them, exercise is up near the top of any list of recommended treatments.

But exercise and arthritis are more difficult for me to reconcile. Sitting or lying down I'm pain free. The back pain kicks in only when I stand up or walk. So I should stand up and walk as therapy for pain that only occurs when I stand up and walk? At the beginning when the pain was fairly intense, I decided against this therapy. But then I began to test the "walk through the pain" recommendation from my back doctor and physical therapist. I soon realized it worked. The pain I felt when I started walking gradually eased as I strolled around the neighborhood.

Stretches for Arthritis Morning Stiffness 
For many people with arthritis, morning is the most difficult time of the day. Waking up with joint stiffness or pain is a common complaint. Although morning may seem like the hardest time of day to get moving, doing a few stretches soon after waking can create a more limber start to the day.

WebMD has a good list of stretching tips for people with arthritis, broken down into three sections depending on the part of the body that is affected.  See http://bit.ly/vlSF4IVlasic

Fortunately for me, the basic stretching exercises for lower back pain can be done as soon as I wake up, lying in bed. It's recommended that I do them twice a day, so after my afternoon nap, I do them again. Since these exercises fit so easily into my schedule, I'm already doing them more faithfully than my Parkinson's BIG regimen. See this link

The stretching exercises seem to be helping. But what really helps is the old faithful -- long walks. Fortunately, we've been enjoying a mild winter, with a few days each week that cry out for a good walk.
But for those days when the weather sucks -- and there'll be lots more of them in the months ahead -- I have an exercise bike and an elliptical trainer in the rec room in front of the TV.

Soon, we'll look at a few recent theories about intensive biking and other exercises.


John said...

My pal Kathy commented on my Facebook page that she found yoga a big help with her arthritis, adding:
: "I go to class twice a week,
sometimes more often and I don't think I could do without it at this point.
With this caveat: My instructor is a gift to people of a certain age. Our
classes are challenging, focusing on the benefits of stretching and meditation,
as well as balance and core strength. And we all know to go easy or stop if
something clearly isn't working. The balance exercises alone are worth the trip
-- how's that for a pun?"

See the
comment thread

John said...

And another helpful comment from my FB page, this time from my friend Anne:
You have a lot of company, John! My orthopedic doc told me to walk, not to set speed records, by any means, but to keep moving, every day. When the weather is bad, I stretch, do light yoga, follow a gentle exercise tape. Like you said, getting out of bed is rough, but once I am moving around, the pain subsides. Good coffee helps! Thanks for sharing

LAWBurr said...

I have enjoyed reading your comments. I have been recentlly diagnosed with PD. I will be 70 in June. My PD startaed on my left side with tremors, loss of movement of my left hand, slowness in walking and extreme fatigue. I now have so improved my condition by participatin in the Big Program created by Becky Farley, a  PT in Tuscon, AZ. It is a high velocity, repetitive  big movement exercise program. It has givien my life back to me! On the PD rating scale I have gone from a rating of 25 out of 108 points down to 13. the closer to 1, the fewer the symptomsthe better you are. I do my exercise routine every day and walk as fast as I can for at least 45 minutes. 
The only meds I take is Azilect daily. I am so thankful for the PT and OT I have worked with and their training.  

John said...

I also got training in the Big exercise program that is designed for those of us with PD. A year ago when I listed the 7 reasons why 2010 was probably the best year of my life, I cited the BIG exercise as one of the contributing factors.