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Q:  My mother suffers from osteoarthritis of her back and hips.  What types of exercises should she be doing to keep her from making things worse and having more pain?

A: That’s a great question and one we are asked quite often.  Osteoarthritis has to do with inflammation (-itis) of the joints (osteo) of the body.  This condition is not to be confused with osteoporosis which has to do with softening of the bones due to loss of calcium.

Osteoarthritis tends to occur most often in the larger joints such as the hips, knees and back but can affect almost any joint.  It is caused from excessive wear and tear on the joints and can be aggravated by trauma, overuse and excessive pressure on the joints which tends to occur with obesity or excessive high impact sports like running.  Our joints wear out over time with resultant thinning of the tissues that provide cushioning of the joints called cartilage. Eventually the cartilage erodes completely and there is significant pain and swelling of the joint.  In the most extreme cases, the joint needs to be replaced due to the complete loss of cushion and thus loss of function due to extreme pain.

But there are exercises that can be done to help support the joint and keep it from wearing out.

Exercise that improves your range of motion such as rotating your arms or using your Total Gym for arm pull downs and squats helps to lubricate and strengthen your joints.  Anything that helps to provide support to the joint will cause less wear and tear.

Using the Total Gym for exercises like pull ups and abdominal exercises can also provide low impact, cardiovascular and muscle training and is uniquely designed to raise your heart rate and strengthen your muscles. In turn, your metabolism is raised which helps to facilitate weight loss.  Weight loss unloads the joints and keeps them from eroding.

In addition, core exercises that strengthen the abdominal and back muscles help to unload the delicate spinal joints which cause less spinal disc erosion and thus less back pain.

Osteoarthritis symptoms can be lessened by regular exercise and training.  So continue to use your Total Gym to enjoy the best of health!

Until next time, stay well and keep training!

Elizabeth Salada, MD

Dr. Salada is board certified in Internal Medicine and has been in practice in San Diego since 1996. She attended medical school at Wake Forest University where she received high honors in Family Practice and Internal Medicine. Her final training was obtained from Pennsylvania State University where she completed her residency in Internal Medicine. Visit Dr. Salada’s website for more information:

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