How to Improve Movement with Arthritis

Arthritis – categorized as joint pain or joint disease.

  • over 100 different types – we will be discussing only four
  • symptoms – swelling, pain, stiffness, decreased ROM (range of motion)
  • current leading cause of disability within the U.S

Due to it being a leading cause of disability, this is important to know as personal trainers because chances are high, we will have a client that has been diagnosed with arthritis and I want us to be efficient & be current on how to properly train clients with arthritis, and to recognize the signs to NOT diagnose our clients, but know when we should refer them to see a specialist.

First lets go over the four common disorders of arthritis:

  1. Osteoarthritis – a degenerative disease.
  • Usually due to wear and tear
  • commonly effects spine, hips, knees, and hands
  • morning stiffness is likely to occur — and stiffness after sitting for a long period of time
  • loss of articular cartilage
  • 2020. was said to have affected around 31 million Americans

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis – An autoimmune disease.

  • The immune system attacks the lining of the joint
  • inflammation (swelling, warmth, stiffness)
  • usually found in small joints (hands, and feet) but not limited to
  • symmetrical
  • swollen inflamed synvial membrane
  • 2020, said to have affected 1.3 million Americans

3. Psoriatic Arthritis – An autoimmune disease.

  • Immune system attacks healthy cells, causing inflammation and over production of skin cells
  • small depressions in the nails and/or detachment of nails
  • pain, swelling, redness
  • commonly seen in the knees, spine, toes, ankles, wrist and fingers.
  • can cause blurred vision, one to see black spots, targeting the third layer of the eye
  • 2020, was said to have affected 1.5 million Americans with skin psoriasis

4. Gout – Inflammatory arthritis.

  • High levels of uric acid in the blood
  • Affects the big toe, ankles, knees, elbows, wrist and fingers
  • Recommended: limit red meat consumption and sugary beverages
  • 2020, said to have affected 8.3 million Americans

Ways to Manage Arthritis

The #1 way to manage arthritis is to UNDERSTAND the symptoms and knowing when to seek a doctor & as personal trainers knowing when to refer our clients to see a doctor.

  • Identifying warning signs: pain (is it constant or comes and goes), swelling, stiffness (morning? after sitting? long lasting?), difficulty moving a joint (limited ROM?) <– pay attention to these signs and be aware of how your client is feeling at all times

other forms of managing arthritis will be on an individual basis such as:

  • Hot/ cold compresses
  • physical therapy
  • medication/supplements
  • pain/emotional support
  • shots/injections
  • holistic approaches
  • support devices
  • nutrition/weight loss
  • exercise ** – very important for people with arthritis
  • surgery

Ask your clients questions, do your research, and educate yourself so you can educate your clients. For those of you diagnosed with arthritis speak with a professional about your options.

Very important trainers — > we CANNOT .. diagnose, prescribe or manipulate .. stay within your scope of practice & utilize your network system doctors. I, myself have had clients in the past diagnosed with arthritis and if in doubt I will always refer them to a doctor or have them get a doctors release so I am better able to help them.

Exercise Testing For Arthritis

  1. The initial interview should be a health history, list of medications, and their diagnosis from a doctor.
  2. learn about their past and present limitations, if any. (History & commitment w/ exercise)
  3. Get an understanding of their condition(s), and belief system
  4. physicians release and referral if needed
  5. Actual testing will depend on their goals but some to consider: muscular strength, muscular endurance, aerobic endurance, flexibility, balance, gait, activities of daily living and pain

Prevention & Wellness for OA and RA

  • Maintain appropriate bodyweight
  • sustaining good postural alignment **
  • Developing muscular strength, power and flexibility
  • correct movements during functional activities
  • performing functional task and optimizing cardiovascular fitness

Resistance Training:

  • Moderate or greater intensity 2 more days a week
  • low resistance, high reps without joint irritation
  • Keep in mind that individuals will respond different to different exercises
  • ROM & load are primary
  • power training can be safe and effective — doesn’t mean we need clients to do snatches (choose appropriate exercises)

Cardiovascular Training:

  • major part of training with OA clients
  • should minimize joint stress
  • low or NO impact is recommended (avoid high impact)
  • Aquatic therapy is helpful due to the fact that it will allow movement that may not be possible for them on land.

** Adults with chronic conditions or disabilities, who are able, should do aerobic activity spread throughout the week.

My goal as a trainer is to make exercise comfortable for my clients with arthritis, strengthen them and educate them on the importance of movement.

Do you know anyone diagnosed with arthritis? Share this post!

Interested in training with me & be apart of WonderWomanFitness Contact me for information. I also offer nutrition coaching as well.

Be sure to follow me on social media!

Shay-lon Moss

ACSM Personal Trainer



Published by WonderWoman & Fit

You can assume I have a love for fitness & a love for Wonderwoman -- both assumptions are correct. I am an ACSM certified personal trainer of 8+ years -- I currently reside in Ohio and live a simplistic life at the age of 29. If I am not lifting, I am eating, sleeping, traveling, exploring, or movie watching. I recently moved during a pandemic, now I am focused on self care (self love), building a business of my own in personal training, becoming a professional blogger, starting a podcast and doing things that make me happy! I am a sister, daughter, and loyal friend --- I love everyone's dog and I am on a mission to pet as many dogs as possible everywhere I go! LOL. My mission is to talk health (physical/mental), design programming, motivational speak, learn, grow, prosper, build others and make as many people smile as possible because I want nothing more than to be the change I seek in the world.

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