10 Exercises to Help Ease Joint Pain
There are lots of different reasons why you may be experiencing joint pain.
As we age, our joints become more and more vulnerable to pain and sensitivity, which could be a herald of anything from simple overuse to an illness or disease. The joints that are the most vulnerable are the ones that bear the most weight, like our knees and hips, but it is possible to experience pain in other joints like our skull hinge, or the place where our ribs meet our spine.
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Arthritis, which is simply a medical term for the inflammation of joints, is used to describe around 200 different conditions that affect our joints, as well the connective tissue that surrounds them. Arthritis is the most common disability in the United States and affects at least 54 million adults. This number represents people that have been diagnosed by a doctor, but arthritis often goes untreated, so in actuality, that figure is probably a lot higher.
There are several other conditions that can cause joint pain in addition to arthritis, such as gout, a sports injury, infection, or a separate joint disease that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of arthritis. All these conditions have their own specific list of symptoms, but many of them involve joint pain and inflammation of some kind. Red, swollen, and puffy joints are also a cause for alarm, and should be taken seriously, especially when you’re also experiencing pain. If left untreated, joint pain can cause permanent loss of range of motion, and weakness.
One of the best things you can do for yourself if you’ve been experiencing joint pain is to maintain a regular exercise regime. Regular exercise and physical activity can help maintain muscular strength, will reduce inflammation, and can even increase your pain tolerance, all of which are helpful to sore and aching joints. Generally, you should find a routine that works for you, but if you’ve been experiencing joint pain, you’ll need to protect your joints from further damage while working out.
Here’s a list of some exercises that are really helpful for easing aching joints.
Water can be a boon for aching joints since it’s a cardio exercise that doesn’t impact joints as much as running or jogging. You can also stretch your muscles gently in the water in a way that’s not possible on land. Swimming a few laps every day has been shown to improve the joint pain of people with rheumatoid arthritis. Most community centers have either an indoor or outdoor pool open daily, especially in the summer months.
One of the best and most underrated exercises is walking. It’s free, you can literally do it anywhere (including inside), and it’s low impact. A trial published in 2016 in Musculoskeletal Care showed that people who walked three to four times a week felt more positive and capable of achieving their goals than people who did not walk on a regular basis. If walking doesn’t feel strenuous enough, take along a small pair of hand weights, and use them to give yourself an upper body work out at the same time.
Yoga is excellent for improving flexibility, stability, and is also easy on sore joints. Yoga improves body awareness, which increases our coordination and balance, and is also one of the most relaxing forms of exercise available today. Many yoga poses are designed to improve our flexibility and range-of-motion, which is great for stretching out stiff, sore joints. If you take a yoga class, be aware that some positions may strain your joints, but you can always ask your teacher to help you with a modification.
4. Strength Training
One of the worst side effects of aching joints is how easy it is to let our muscles in the surrounding area weaken. Refraining from using the joint may make it feel better in the short term, but prolonged disuse will weaken it dangerously in the long term. Strength training with weights and resistance bands is a great way to maintain muscular strength without putting pressure on our joints. Doing strength training exercises for as little as six weeks has been shown to have a positive impact on people with arthritis.
Another great way to improve our muscular strength and coordination is Pilates, a low impact strength workout that can help relieve pressure on hips and knees. Pilates is usually done using resistance bands and weights, and is designed to improve strength, flexibility, and coordination. The breathing exercises that are common in a Pilates class can also help you manage pain and assist in coping with the symptoms of arthritis. Like yoga, Pilates will benefit you as long as you’re able to avoid stressing out joints that are already sore; your teacher should be able to help you modify any activity the class is doing.
For many people, the smooth motion of pedaling a bicycle can help loosen up sore joints, and avoids the pounding, jarring movement of other high-impact cardio activities like running. Cycling can also help strengthen quad muscles. If you find that biking on the road, or an upright bike at the gym is too hard on your knees and hips, you can try a recumbent bicycle. It’s a bike that places the rider in a reclining position.
7. Water Workouts
Another type of water-based activity that’s excellent for joint pain is a water workout, an exercise class that takes place standing in a semi-deep pool. The buoyancy of the water relieves joint pain, and the resistance provides an even deeper stretch as muscles have to push harder to cut through the water. If your hips or knees are too sore to stand, you can purchase a water jogging belt, which suspends you in the water without needing to touch the bottom.
8. Floor Stretches
There are lots of exercises that you can do right on your floor at home that can help stretch and strengthen irritated joints. If you’ve been seeing a doctor or physical therapist, they might have some good ideas of where to start. You don’t need much since there are a lot of activities that you can do with just your body weight. If you wanted to invest in a helpful piece of equipment, a foam roller is great for stretching out sore joints.
Zumba is a Latin-dance-inspired fitness trend that combines the best parts of a dance class and aerobics workout into one exciting package. Each Zumba teacher will have their own routine, which is usually pretty easy to learn, and relies on fluid movements rather than aggressive exercises which can hurt delicate joints. Go easy when you’re first starting out, but the classes should quickly begin to feel easier.
10. Suspension Training
Another neat exercise that’s great for people with sore joints is suspension training, where you use straps that are suspended from an anchor point to leverage yourself into the air. This exercise is great for building core strength, which is helpful for balance and coordination. While this exercise is great for building strength, it should be avoided if you have serious issues with your wrists and ankles.