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Study finds arthritis sufferers aren’t getting much needed exercise

June 11, 2014 – There seems to be a catch-22 at play for adults in the working world living with the chronic strain of arthritis.

June 11, 2014  By Massage Therapy Canada staff

Research has shown that people with arthritis who engage in regular physical activity or exercise report fewer limitations in their day-to-day lives. However, many of those who suffer from arthritis feel that the struggle of their daily lives is exhausting enough on its own and therefore do not participate in additional physical activity.

Dr. Monique Gignac, a senior scientist and associate scientific director at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH), led a study with eight focus groups involving 24 women and 16 men ranging in age from 29 – 72 years, all of whom had been recently employed and had either osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis, in order to look at the relationship between arthritis, work and personal life roles.

“They pointed to the fatigue that resulted from juggling the demands of arthritis, employment and personal life as an important barrier to physical activity,” says Gignac, who is also affiliated with the Arthritis Community Research and Evaluation Unit at the Toronto Western Research Institute. “For many, arthritis threatened their ability to hang on to their jobs, so jobs were given priority over exercise when it came time to deciding where to put their energy.”

Gignac found that although study participants were aware of the benefits of physical activity and exercise in relation to their arthritis, they didn’t know when or how to go about implementing physical activity or exercise in their lives. This issue was exacerbated by the episodic and unpredictable nature of arthritis pain.


“They just didn’t know if physical activity would make things better or worse, or what activities they should do or for how long,” she said.

Couple this fear with the anxiety people had about being forced to take time away from work due to their pain, an option the majority of study participants found unacceptable as they cited work as their first priority.

“We need to find ways to help working adults with arthritis tailor their physical activity in light of changing pain, energy and fears of exacerbating their symptoms,” said Gignac.

It would seem that, upon doctor recommendation, those who suffer from arthritis are poised to reap the benefits of alternative treatments, such as chiropractic and massage therapy, which have been proven to alleviate some of the pain associated with arthritis.

If the debilitating symptoms of the condition can be addressed and eased, perhaps those who suffer from arthritis would be more willing and able to devote a portion of their time to the exercise and physical activity needed to further enhance their quality of life.

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