It seems like a catch-22: regular exercise can reduce the inflammation associated with joint pain, but joint pain makes exercising the last thing you want to do. Starting an exercise routine when it feels like your body is working against you can be challenging, but there are ways to make the process easier. Try out these tips so your body can reap the benefits of exercise.
1. Spend plenty of time warming up.
“It can be tempting to skip the warmup, but beginning a workout without warming up can increase risk for muscular and tendon injuries, especially after age 40,” said Dr. Justin Brazeal, orthopedic surgeon at St. Joseph Health Orthopaedic Associates. Joint pain is more severe when muscles and tendons are stiff, but just five minutes of light movement can be enough to get your muscles (and joints!) ready for the task at hand.
2. Use a foam roller.
Fascia is the web-like, elastic connective tissue that supports and separates joints, organs and other tissue. As we age, this tissue can become dry and brittle, which decreases how much it can support our joints during exercise. Including a foam roller in an exercise routine is a great way to reinvigorate the fascia, leading to reduced joint pain. Creating gentle compression with a foam roller encourages fluid to move back into it, rehydrating the fascia. Using a foam roller before or after a workout has been shown to significantly reduce joint pain.
3. Mix things up!
Mixing up your workouts is a great way to keep from getting bored, but it’s even more important if you suffer from joint pain. When muscles are weak from overuse, your joints take the brunt of the impact. If you go for a run with sore quads, for example, your knees take a greater impact than usual. Alternate high-impact activities, like running, with something more gentle, such as swimming, yoga or pilates.
4. Shift your weight.
If it’s painful to even think about doing squats or lunges, try shifting your weight to ease the burden on your joints. Shifting weight back onto your heels, rather than the balls of your feet, reduces strain on the knees and quadriceps. You’ll know you’re doing it right if you can wiggle your toes off the floor while in a squat or lunge position. And since keeping your weight further back activates the glutes, this method strengthens your backside, too! There are many modifications to standard exercises that can ease joint pain; talk to one of the staff at the St. Joseph Health MatureWell Lifestyle Center gym to learn what modifications can work for you.
5. Embrace cool-down stretching.
Like warmup stretching, a thorough cool-down routine is important for reducing joint pain. Tight muscles push more heavily on joints and reduce your range of motion, increasing discomfort. After your workout, stretch all your major muscle groups and hold each for 20 to 30 seconds to get the full benefits from your exercise routine.
6. Include pilates or yoga.
These low-impact exercises are fantastic for anyone suffering from joint pain. Pilates focuses on joint stability and mobility, which increases flexibility around the joints. Yoga similarly prioritizes thorough stretching and balance. Additionally, yoga can greatly reduce pain and swelling in those with rheumatoid arthritis. Many people who practice pilates or yoga also benefit from increased balance, which can help realign the body if joint pain causes you to put weight on one side of the body.
7. When in doubt, just add water.
Working out in a pool drastically reduces the impact of exercise on the joints. The deeper the water, the less impact on the joints. Plus, water creates added resistance, so your muscles are still able to get a thorough workout, improving strength and support around your joints. Learn more about the benefits of water-based exercise.
If you suffer from joint pain, there are many ways to improve your day-to-day life. Our highly skilled orthopedic team has the skills and knowledge to develop the right care regimen for you. Learn more about Joint University, one of the most advanced programs for joint diseases in the nation.
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