Grillo Health Information Center
Q: I keep hearing how important walking is for overall health, but I have chronic pain from arthritis and walking hurts. Is there anything I can do to help with this?
A: Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with this condition can manage symptoms and reduce pain by being physically active. One tool recommended by the CDC is the Arthritis Foundation’s “Walk with Ease” program. Their goal is to teach you how to safely make physical activity part of your everyday life. Boulder County sponsors a chapter of this program — for more information see bouldercounty.org/families/seniors/services/wellness-programs.
Here are a few recommendations from the Arthritis Foundation: First, choose a time when your joints are less achy or stiff. Warm-up slowly by marching for 3-5 minutes or use their instructional videos. Walking on soft, even surfaces is easier on joints than hard pavement. Walking with trekking poles may reduce load on joints in some who experience knee or back pain. Good shoes with excellent fit and shoe inserts for extra support can potentially improve comfort level. A foot specialist (podiatrist) who is able to prescribe custom orthotics may be consulted. Before starting an exercise program, you should consider talking with your doctor.
In order to reduce the risk of triggering more pain, it is critical to start your walking program slowly. Fitness experts recommend building up to 10 minutes at a time, 3 times a day. Gradually increase time, distance and speed. Walking technique, or biomechanics, can make a difference in your walking process. Biomechanical analysis with a physical therapist or certified trainer may be beneficial in determining improvements and more comfort when walking.
Stretching after your walk may prevent pain from tight muscles. Cold packs are recommended if joints are sensitive. Moving around throughout the day will help prevent joints from becoming stiff after exercise. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability has helpful suggestions for increasing walking workouts for those with arthritis symptoms.
Boulder Community Health participates in “Walk with a Doc,” a walking program for those interested in taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Events are held monthly. Come to the next “Walk with a Doc” to hear Dr. Robert Leland speak about walking and arthritis on June 9 at North Boulder Park. See walkwithadoc.org/our-locations/boulder-colorado/ for more information.
Peg Fletcher volunteers with the Grillo Center, which offers free, confidential research to assist in health understanding and decisions. To use this service, contact us at grillocenterhealth.org, 720-854-7293 or 4715 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder. No research or assistance should be interpreted as medical advice. We encourage informed consultation with your health care provider.