To prevent joint damage and increase joint strength, exercise is very important. To preserve your joint health, you need to work on certain joint exercises that will keep them mobile, and minimize the damage brought on by age or other factors. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when doing so.
Joint exercises for flexibility
The range of motion of a joint refers to the positions in which the joints can move. Joints prone to damage will reduce the range of motion and joint mobility.
As such you need to follow an exercise program with three important components; endurance training, range of motion, and strengthening exercises. These exercises will help prevent the joint from any future damage or degradation.
Exercises help to maintain optimum joint movement and increase flexibility. When you work out, your weight is also kept in check which further contributes to reducing the risks associated with arthritis and other joint-related conditions.
Flexibility exercises keep the cartilage strong and increase cushioning for the bones. These exercises are stretches that help increase the elasticity of muscles while the range of motion workouts lower the stiffness in joints.
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An easy stretching exercise is stretching your legs while you are in bed. Patients of rheumatoid arthritis cannot get out of bed in the morning due to RA flares. They can get rid of them by performing leg stretches for 10 minutes.
In a hamstring stretch, you have to sit up and extend your right leg in front of you. Bend the other leg and keep your left food on the bed. Now, slide your hands on the right side and you will feel a stretch in the backside of your leg.
Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute and then do the same on the left leg.
Strengthen Your Core
You may not want to be too obsessed with getting a six pack while you suffer from joint immobility, but core exercises are important nevertheless. Abdominal and back strength are important for doing daily chores like lifting a grocery bag or sitting on your desk for working.
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A very easy exercise for strengthening your core is the Knee Fold Tuck. For this exercise, sit on the floor and bend your knees. Keep a ball between your legs and squeeze it. Lift your knees until the shins and floor are parallel to each other.
Then, start pulling your knees towards your shoulders and take them back to the original position. Do this 10 to 15 times.
Climbing Rope is another strengthening exercise in which you have to sit with your legs extended. Your feet must be in a V position. Roll your spine in a C shape and then lift your arms. Your arms must mimic the motion of climbing a rope.
As you reach, twist your body slightly. Do a total of 40 reaches with 20 of each arm. This will help keep your back and abdomen strong. It will also increase your arm strength and increase flexibility.
Planks are the best exercises for your core. They tighten the abdominal muscles and keep your back strong. Get into plank position and tighten your abs.
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Pull your right knee in and rotate is clockwise first and then counterclockwise. Do the same with the leg knee. Repeat the same step five times on both knees.
Variety is Key
Variety is the key when it comes to exercises. You must have diversity in your workouts so that all parts of the body get equal benefits. There are five elements of fitness;
- Balance training
- Core exercises
- Aerobic exercises
- Strength training
If you’re working out on a daily basis, you might get comfortable with one exercise and get into a habit of doing the same one every day. This might keep you comfortable but won’t benefit you much.
When you do the same thing every day, your body gets used to it and it’s no longer a challenge for your muscular or nervous system.
It takes your body about six to eight weeks to get accustomed to working out. After that, it no longer remains a challenge for the body to perform this exercise. So, you need to bring some variety into your exercise routine to get added benefits. The same goes for joint exercises.
If you keep working the same joint out, it can undergo degradation too. This, in itself, becomes a kind of overuse for the same joints so you need a well-tailored exercise plan that includes all joints.
Joint Specific Exercises
Here’s a rundown of some specific exercises focused on specific joint or parts.
The easiest exercise for the neck is to slowly drop your neck until your chin reaches the chest level. Keep the neck in this position for 5 to 10 seconds and then return to the original position.
Tilt your head slightly back and remain in this position for 10 seconds. Do this stretch five times in each direction. It will help increase flexibility in the region and increase movement.
Another exercise is to sit in a chair in a good posture and rotate your neck.
Firstly, turn your head to the right side and remain in this position for 10 seconds, then go back to the center and turn to the left.
Hold the position on both sides for 10 seconds. You’ll feel your neck muscles relax, relieve some tension while your joints in the area benefit too.
To prevent or minimize shoulder pain, try the arm across chest stretch. Holding you right arm out, take it across your chest to the left.
Place your left hand just behind your right elbow and give your right arm a gentle stretch. Hold for 10 seconds. The point is to stretch your arm across the chest without feeling pain. Repeat on the other side.
Another exercise is the chest expansion where you stand in a good posture and hold an exercise band. Now, take your arms back until your shoulder blades touch and hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds.
Repeat 5-6 times to strengthen shoulders or relieve shoulder pain. The same will also help increase flexibility in the region.
Pelvic Tilt is a back exercise in which you have to lie on the floor and bend your knees. Then, keeping your arms at your side, tighten your abdominal muscles. Do not use your butts or legs to sink your abdomen towards the spine.
You will feel your pelvis moving up but not leaving the floor. Stay in this position for 5 seconds and then relax. Do 10 reps.
Hands and Wrists
An easy exercise is to make a fist. Slowly, bend your hand and keep your thumb on the outside. Open the hand again and straighten the fingers. Repeat for a minute or two with each hand.
Another exercise is to keep your hand open straight and then bend your thumb. Bend all your fingers towards the palm, one by one, and hold in that position for a few seconds. Do the same on the left hand.
Lie on the floor and bend both your legs. Lift one leg and bring your knee towards the chest. Keep your hands linked behind your thigh and slowly straighten the leg.
Now, pull your straightened leg backward and you will feel a stretch. Remain in this position for 30 seconds.
You can also do a half squat, in which you stand straight and then bend your knees to reach a half-sitting position. In leg stretch, sit with both legs straight in front of you on the floor or bed and bend one knee.
Once you feel the stretch, hold in that position for 10 seconds and then straighten your leg slowly.
Be especially careful when performing knee exercises to maintain proper balance, if your knees are not up to doing squats and lunges, skip these for easier exercises.
Tips while doing Joint Exercises
Majorly, you might notice some pain after you exercise if you haven’t been active for a while. In such a case, you have to start slowly to ease your joints into exercise. If you push yourself too hard, you can overwork your muscles and worsen your joint pain (1).
- Move your joints gently at first to warm up. You might begin with range-of-motion exercises for five to 10 minutes before you move on to strengthening or aerobic exercises. Exercise with slow and easy movements.
- If you feel pain, take a break. Sharp pain and pain that is stronger than your usual joint pain might indicate something is wrong. Slow down if you notice swelling or redness in your joints.
- Low impact exercises like stationary or recumbent bicycles, elliptical trainers, or exercise in the water help keep joint stress low while you move.
- Heat can relax your joints and muscles and relieve any pain you have before you begin. Heat treatments — warm towels, hot packs, or a shower — should be warm, not painfully hot, and should be applied for about 20 minutes.
- Apply ice to your joints for up to 20 minutes as needed after activity, especially after the activity that causes joint swelling.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, ask your doctor if you should exercise during general or local flares. One option is to work through your joint flares by doing only range-of-motion exercises, just to keep your body moving, or exercising in water to cushion your joints.
Trust your instincts and don’t exert more energy than you think your joints can handle. Take it easy and slowly increase your exercise length and intensity as you progress.