When dealing with joint pain, it’s super tempting to apply heat and make a date with Netflix, but you can still workout without hurting your joints any further. There's a misconception that exercise will aggravate joint pain, when in fact the opposite is true: Exercises for joint pain strengthen the muscles that support your joints, which puts less pressure on them.
Here are 6 fitness tips and exercises for joint pain to help you power through and keep your workout routine in tact:
1. Focus on the power of three
There are three types of exercise that support your joints:
Flexibility. Range-of-motion exercises involve moving your joints through their normal movement range, such as raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders in a circular motion. They help to relieve stiffness and increase – you guessed it – flexibility. Stretch until you feel resistance, and add more moves as your flexibility improves.
Strengthening. The stronger your muscles, the more they support and protect your joints. Shoot for strengthening exercises every other day, but take an extra day if you find your joints are giving you attitude. Start with wall push-ups or standing lunges, and only add light weights once the reps have become easy.
Cardiovascular. Walking, swimming, biking – any workout that gets your heart pumping while remaining gentle on your joints is a big win. Try for 20 to 30 minutes three times a week, or split them up into 10-minute blocks depending on the intensity of your joint pain.
2. Stretch often
One of the best fitness tips I’ve ever received to help my joint pain is to stretch often – basically, anytime you think to do so. This is especially crucial if you’re like me and partake in oodles of office work. Over time, the increase in flexibility makes a huge difference (and personally, I love not feeling like I’m about to snap in half). Try your hand at these yoga poses for each problem area.
3. Apply heat before
Heat helps to relax your joints and muscles, alleviating any pain you have before you start your workout. Any form of heat treatment – whether a warm towel, hot pack, or even a warm shower – should be applied for about 20 minutes just before your workout. Afterward, apply ice to problem areas to avoid/reduce swelling.
4. Move gently
Move your joints through a gentle warmup before getting down to business. For example, get your stretch on for five to 10 minutes before jumping into your usual routine. Check out these gentle moves and add them to your repertoire.
5. Go slowly
Exercise using slow and easy movements. When you start noticing pain, take a break. While muscle fatigue during a workout is common, usually muscle pain because of conditioning doesn’t start until the workout’s over and wears off over time. If you’re experiencing pain that’s stronger than your usual joint pain, you’re probably pushing your bod too quickly.
6. Don’t overdo it
If you push yourself too hard, you can overwork your muscles, which in turn will worsen your joint pain. If you’re anything like me, in the moment you might feel as if you haven’t pushed yourself – and then afterwards feel like you’ve been hit by a bus. Generally, if your pain lasts longer than two hours after you exercise, you’ve likely overdone it.
What fitness tips have helped you exercise with joint pain?
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Image: Ron Sombilon