A grating, rusty hinge. A squeaky pair of new leather shoes. A mast on an old ship creaking as the sail billows. That’s what the joints of your feet and ankles can feel like with osteoarthritis. Nobody likes the idea of creaking and groaning as you move about—especially if you hurt—but this degenerative disease often leads to stiff and painful joints.
What happens is that wear and tear through the years gradually damages the cartilage and lining between bones. As they wear away, the ends of the bones rub against each other, causing pain and inflammation. What you may not know is that exercises for arthritic joints can help keep them moving more easily.
A comprehensive arthritis treatment plan should include exercises of the following types:
- Those that strengthen your muscles – The bones in your joints are held in place by ligaments, but you also need strong muscles to support them and keep them stable. This is often accomplished with resistance movements that pit your muscles against force pulling or pushing in the opposite direction.
- Range-of-motion exercises – These keep the ligaments and muscles properly stretched, so the joint can move to its full extent. Point and flex your toes and circle your ankles to improve movement in all directions.
- Those that increase balance – You want to avoid injury from falls, so do movements that improve your balance. Standing on one foot is a simple way to do this.
- Strengthen your heart and lung functions – Aerobic exercises are those that increase your heartbeat (circulation) and breathing (getting oxygen to your cells). Just remember that you don’t want to pound on your feet and stress those joints even more, so stick to brisk walking, biking or swimming to reduce wear and tear on them.