5 Exercises for Arthritic Joints to Build Support and Range of Motion
Joint pain from arthritis makes it hard to move around, but while it sounds contradictory, exercise is essential for people with arthritis. When done safely and regularly, exercise actually helps reduce pain, improve strength, and increase your range of motion. To get the most benefit out of exercise, though, you need to perform the right exercises for arthritic joints.
Arthritis is a common condition characterized by swelling and inflammation of the joints. The main symptoms are joint stiffness and pain; these symptoms generally worsen with time. Symptoms may also be worse in cold weather.
Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 diseases that affect the joints. The most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes the wearing away of the hard, slippery cartilage tissue covering the ends of bones where they form a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, starting with the tissue lining the joints. The damage caused by arthritis makes the joint function poorly, and causes pain and stiffness.
Many people with arthritis stop exercising because it hurts to move the affected joints. Unfortunately, the lack of physical activity can weaken the muscles supporting the joints, which ends up worsening the stiffness, pain, and stress on the joint.
Exercise can improve balance, flexibility, endurance, and energy in people with arthritis. It works by strengthening the muscles around your joints, which allows you to power through the stiffness. Weight-bearing exercises can strengthen your bones too, which reduces your risk of fracture if you fall. Exercise also boosts your energy throughout the day, improves the quality of your sleep, improves balance, and helps you control your weight.
Melt Away the Joint Pain and Stiffness of Arthritis with these 5 Exercises
1. Simple Hand Exercises
Make a fist
Hold the fingers of your hand straight. Slowly bend your hand into a fist with your thumb on the outside of your hand; be gentle and do not squeeze your hand too tightly. Open your hand and straighten your fingers. Do the exercise 10 times with each hand.
Hold the fingers of your hand straight. Bend your thumb towards your palm and hold for a couple of seconds before straightening your thumb back out. Bend your index finger towards your palm and hold it for a couple of seconds before returning it to the starting position. Repeat the exercise with all fingers on each hand.
Holding your hand straight, bend your thumb towards the bottom of your pinky finger and hold it for a second or two before returning to the starting position; it is okay if you cannot reach your little finger with your thumb.
Yoga can help you improve your balance, prevent falls, improve your posture and coordination, and even help you relax. Tell your yoga instructor about your arthritis so they can help you focus on positions and movements that help and avoid those that might cause harm. Avoid any positions or movements that cause you pain; stay away from positions that require you to balance on one foot or bend your affected joints more than 90 degrees, especially if you are a beginner.
3. Strength Training
Weightlifting, pushups, and squats help you strengthen your muscles and bones, which ultimately helps reduce pain, stiffness, and swelling. Be sure to work with an experienced fitness trainer or physical therapist who can help you develop a safe, effective strength-training routine for your arthritis. Before working out, perform gentle stretches to loosen your joints and reduce your risk of injuries. For best results, limit strength-training sessions to those times of day when your arthritis symptoms are minimal.
Walking is a low-impact, aerobic exercise that almost anyone can do. Walking strengthens your muscles and bones, increases your range of motion, and shifts the pressure off the affected joints to alleviate pain and stiffness.
Swimming and other water workouts help minimize pain and improve pain in ways that other exercises cannot. Water has special properties that make you buoyant, which takes weight off your joints, but also provides resistance that gives your muscles a workout. To soothe joint pain and stiffness, swim in a heated pool or warm water.
Tips for Exercising with Arthritis
- Don’t overdo it, especially if you have not exercised in a while
- Keep it low impact to protect your joints
- Support joints where necessary—use splints and other devices to support your joints
- Try laser therapy: this advanced treatment can help reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation associated with arthritis
For more information about exercises for arthritic joints, consult with your personal trainer or physical therapist. Putting your joints in motion can reduce pain and stiffness of arthritis.