Is pickleball good for arthritis?
According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are over 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. Research suggests that staying active, eating a balanced diet, and finding activities that you enjoy are all good for arthritis.
Since pickleball is a sport that can be played indoors or outdoors, as singles and pairs, and contributes to positive social bonds, I can confidently say that yes, pickleball is good for arthritis.
Is Pickleball Good for Arthritis
5 Common Types of Arthritis Pickleball Players Might Face
- Osteoarthritis (OA)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Psoriatic arthritis (PsA)
Playing Pickleball with Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis I treat in my physical therapy clinic. Clients with osteoarthritis most often experience pain in the hips, knees, and ankles after a long training session or vigorous pickleball game.
This may be because osteoarthritis is associated with degenerative changes in the joint surfaces. Bone spurs and damage to the cartilage are characteristics of osteoarthritis.
Best Way to Stop Osteoarthritis Pain
Know your limits! The best way to stop osteoarthritis pain is to stop it before it gets worse. Staying active is important in the treatment of osteoarthritis, but doing too much too soon is a surefire way to flare up your osteoarthritis pain.
I usually advise my clients to experiment in finding their tolerance. If they can play pickleball at medium intensity for 30-minutes without increased pain or swelling later that night or the next day, then try 45-minutes next time.
If you find that 45-minutes did nothing to increase your symptoms, but 60-minutes put you “over the edge” and resulted in a swollen knee the next day, then consider your training range between 45 and 50-minutes for the next 6 to 12 weeks.
After that, if you are feeling good and you want to test another 60-minute session do so, but know that if you flare up your OA you will need to drop back down to the 45 to 50-minute training sessions.
Recovery from Osteoarthritis Pain
If you find that you have flared up your OA pain and you are looking for the best pickleball recovery tips, you may try any of the following:
- Cryotherapy – icing your knees or shoulders
- Self Massage with a Foam Roller or Rolling Pin
- Hydration – be sure you are drinking enough fluids
- Supplemental nutrition (Eat Better😊)
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Pickleball
According to Mayo Clinic, “Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints.” This autoimmune disease may flare up for many different reasons and unlike osteoarthritis may not be directly associated with physical activity.
On days in which pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis is increased, playing pickleball may not be the best choice of physical activity. Instead, these days may be better suited to guided imagery or medication. Low-impact activities like yoga and pilates are also great options.
Studies have shown that exercise and physical activity is extremely beneficial for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
Psoriatic Arthritis and Pickleball
Psoriatic arthritis is most commonly associated with joint pain, stiffness and swelling are the main signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. Link
This condition commonly affects the skin as well as the joints. In pickleball players, swollen fingers and painful wrists could negatively impact your ability to grip a paddle properly (see also ‘Best Pickleball Paddle For Women‘).
Finding the best paddle grip for hand and wrist pain is important and could help you stay on the court. Performing grip exercises are also helpful.
“Studies show clear beneficial effects of exercise in PsA on disease activity, on well-being, and on comorbidities, and they seem to outweigh the risk of enthesitis induced by mechanical stress.” Link
Fibromyalgia and Pickleball
Back in the early 2000s, I worked with a local rheumatologist and we created a treatment protocol specifically for individuals experiencing symptoms related to fibromyalgia.
Fibro refers to fibers and Myalgia refers to muscle pain.
Fibromyalgia is often characterized as widespread, diffuse pain. It is associated with fatigue and depression according to the CDC.
When I am working with patients who are experiencing a fibromyalgia-related flareup and want to keep playing pickleball, I often recommend they play shorter bouts. They focus more on technique and skill work. I advise them not to exhaust themselves and stop before they feel like they need to stop.
Benefits of Pickleball for Fibromyalgia
Staying connected and being part of the pickleball community is important. Often, when patients are experiencing a fibromyalgia exacerbation they want to detach from social groups and reduce their activity levels.
Pickleball is as much about the people you play with as it is about the sport you play.
Gout and Pickleball
I have personally experienced gout pain and I am the first one to say that nobody could talk me into putting on a sneaker regardless of how much I wanted to play pickleball.
Gout pain is caused by an excess of uric acid crystals. It commonly affects the left big toe but can also affect the knee and other joints of the body.
According to the CDC, symptoms include pain, redness, swelling, and heat around the joint.
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