Are you one of the 54 million Americans who have some form of arthritis? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 23% of all adults find themselves limited in their activities because of this condition, and more than one in four report severe joint pain. In 20 years, the number of arthritis-afflicted individuals is expected to skyrocket to 78 million – or more than a quarter of all U.S.-based adults! Your home can help you avoid and reduce the pain of arthritis flare-ups. Here’s how, with an arthritis expert from the Mayo Clinic.

“Motion is lotion,” declares Ashima Makol, MD, a rheumatologist with the world-renowned health center, “but this is easier said than done for patients with many forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid, psoriatic and osteoarthritis.” The pain, stiffness, swelling and decreased range of motion can be debilitating and contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, she notes. “Lack of exercise can make joints even more painful and stiff,” Makol cautions.  

“Making your home a relaxation oasis incorporating wellness techniques has really gained attention,” the doctor shares.  Here are four wellness design-focused home improvement ideas she suggests can help arthritis sufferers.

Create a Tailored Home Fitness Space

An exercise regimen that is easy on the joints, includes some strength training, stretching for flexibility, range-of-motion exercises and some aerobics is optimal for arthritis patients,” the doctor suggests. “The goal is to benefit from it, without stressing the joints too much. It is important to remember that not all exercise equipment is created equal.” 

Makol recommends an elliptical, recumbent or stationary bike for arthritis sufferers’ aerobic exercise. “Jogging, running or using a treadmill can be difficult, painful and even dangerous,” she cautions.

With regard to strength training, she suggests “Light dumbbells, resistance bands and Pilates. To improve flexibility, yoga, tai chi and stretching can be beneficial.”

Get Some Hydrotherapy

“Water is a fantastic tool; its buoyancy relieves more than 90% of gravity’s effect on the body, so you can stretch out with less pain and relax your joints. Whirlpools, swim spas, swimming pools, and even a warm soak in your bathtub are all ways to relax and de-stress,” the doctor suggests, noting, “The warmth of the water dilates superficial blood vessels, increases circulation, improves blood flow around the body and promotes muscle relaxation. When you step out of a hot bath, the cooling effect can promote a good night sleep, which can do wonders for pain relief.”  

To get additional wellness benefits and relief, the doctor notes, “Swimming and water aerobics are excellent, low-impact activities for people suffering from arthritis. Swim spas can provide one of the best swimming exercise workouts, using the least amount of space in your home. They also provide the added benefits of hydromassage, using therapy jets to focus heated water against points of tension on the neck, shoulders, back, and other body parts.” You can adjust the jets from gentle friction to kneading to help with chronic pain, relax tight muscles and improve the elasticity of underlying tissues to relieve stiffness, she suggests.

Upgrade Your Shower with Steam

“Steam has centuries-old benefits for skin health, detox and relaxation, but can also help arthritis pain,” Makol points out. There are studies to suggest that patients treated with spa therapy showed more improvement in their mobility and pain, compared to a group of patients treated with medications alone. Using a steam room before exercise can help loosen up the joints and increase flexibility, and reduce joint pain.”

Add a Sauna

“Saunas are based on the concept of heat promoting vigorous sweating and increase in heart rate,” the doctor says, “mimicking what aerobic exercise would do.” There are two types, she says: “Traditional saunas use heat to warm the air, which in turn warms the body, while infrared saunas directly warm the body, keeping the air around you cool; this makes them easier to tolerate and have demonstrated short term improvement in pain and stiffness in patients with RA.” They can be dehydrating though, Makol cautions, so it is important to keep yourself hydrated before and after using one.

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