Physical Activity Helps Arthritis Pain
Learn how physical activity can ease arthritis pain over time.
About 15 million US adults with arthritis report having severe joint pain, that is, pain rated at a 7 or higher on a scale of 0 (no pain) to 10 (as bad as it can be). Joint pain can interfere with daily activities such as:
- Gripping and carrying grocery bags.
- Holding a mug to drink coffee and tea.
- Walking to the car or mailbox.
- Climbing a short flight of stairs.
- Getting dressed, for example, buttoning and zipping clothes.
- Grooming, for example, brushing and styling hair, shaving, or trimming nails.
- Cleaning and housework, for example, dusting, sweeping, or vacuuming.
Nearly a third of adults with arthritis are physically inactive. Yet a CDC study shows that severe joint pain is more common among adults with arthritis who are physically inactive. Physical inactivity is more common among adults with arthritis who live in states in the Southeast and are disabled or unable to work. Arthritis, severe joint pain, and physical inactivity are linked to limitations in daily activities like holding a mug or cup, lifting and carrying a grocery bag, or walking to the car.
What can People with Arthritis Do?
Physical activity is a way to manage and reduce arthritis pain and decrease the likelihood of activity limitations. CDC, health departments, and national partners promote several physical activity programs to help with that. These programs are designed to engage people of all ages and fitness levels in physical activity to help reduce arthritis pain and minimize activity limitations so they can have a better quality of life. These evidence-based programs use low-impact exercises that work for people with arthritis, like walking, biking, and swimming.
What can Providers Do?
In addition to telling patients with arthritis about the benefits of physical activity, health care providers can encourage them to become physically active by starting slowly and gradually increasing activity over time. Providers can also recommend physical activity programs that are available in the community and remotely.
For a complete list of recommended and promising physical activity and self-management education workshops, visit the CDC Arthritis Program’s Lifestyle Management Programs page.
Guglielmo D, Murphy LB, Boring MA, et al. State-specific severe joint pain and physical inactivity among adults with arthritis—United States, 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68(17):381-387. [link]