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Can walking make my arthritis worse?

Q) I'm 39 and went through an early menopause. I have the early stages of brittle bone disease and have just been told I have osteoarthritis in the lower back and both hips. For about 20 years I have been a power walker. My GP, however, tells me to stop walking, especially on roads as it was very bad for my back and hips. I now only do about two to three miles three times a week. I find it a little sore when on the road but that night and the next day I'm in severe pain and feel my joints are very stiff to move. Should I give up or still do it?
Christine, Omagh, Co Tyrone (Summer 2011)

A) This is quite a dilemma. On the one hand you have osteoarthritis of the back and hips and power walking on hard surfaces is likely to aggravate it. On the other hand you have early osteoporosis and weight bearing exercise is recommended to delay further bone loss. I think you have to find a balance somewhere in between. Exercise has other benefits on the cardiovascular system and generally makes you feel good, so I would not like to discourage you from this. Have you tried painkillers or, dare I say it, anti-inflammatory drugs to enable you to continue your exercise, perhaps less vigorously?

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Summer 2011 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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