Joint-Friendly Stretches & Workouts
Exercise and good nutrition are key elements to keeping your body in a healthy state. But even these two health measures can cause harm if not done properly. For example, did you know that certain stretches and workouts can actually lead to joint damage?
At MidAmerica Orthopaedics, we know the value of joint-friendly stretches and workouts all too well. Preventing future or further joint damage is priceless to our overall health, mobility, and pain-management, particularly as we age.
How Do Joint-Friendly Stretches and Workouts Help to Decrease Joint Pain?
If you already suffer from joint pain, you might feel like working out will only increase the problem. This is hardly ever the case, however. Inactivity leads to decreased joint mobility and flexibility, which leads to weak muscles and deformed joints. Exercising regularly helps to reverse this, reducing joint stiffness, building muscle strength, and improving your overall fitness.
The secret is in making sure that the stretches and workout you do are joint-friendly. This exemplifies the importance of doing proper research and obtaining expert medical advice before beginning new habits or health programs.
Stretching is an excellent, low-impact method of loosening your muscles. According to Harvard Health, stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, which helps us to maintain a range of motion in our joints. It also helps to prevent muscle damage and keep muscles strong enough to support our joints.
Before beginning your stretching, do some light activity for 5-10 minutes or so to warm up your muscles. This can be a simple walk – just something to get blood flowing to your muscles. Otherwise, save your stretching for after your workout when your muscle fibers are more limber.
When stretching, be sure to hold the position for roughly 30 seconds. Do not bounce or move in and out of the stretch. This can actually cause more damage and prevent the stretch from being effective.
Range-of-motion stretches help to build your joint flexibility to allow them to move through their full range of motion. These stretches should be gentle enough that you can perform them daily. Learn a basic routine that covers your entire body, head to toe, that you can perform every day, especially if you are having joint pain flareups. As your joints get stronger and more flexible, you can evolve these stretches to increase your range of motion.
As with stretching, your workouts need to begin with some warming up. Never begin a workout on cold muscles, tendons, or joints as this will increase the likelihood of pain and damage. Begin with some light aerobic exercise, dynamic, moving stretches, or performing your workout movements at lower intensities.
Cardio or endurance workouts are wonderful for your overall fitness. They improve your cardiovascular health and can help you control your weight while increasing energy levels. But you want to be sure that you are staying within a moderate-intensity level of cardio, so that you aren’t overexerting your joints. Low-impact machines like the elliptical or stair climber are easier on your joints, as are walking and bicycling. Being able to maintain a conversation while exercising is a good indication that you are working within a moderate-intensity level, although your breathing should be increased while doing so.
Isometric exercises are a mild form of strength training to help you build muscle. Stronger muscles protect joints from injuries. During these workouts, the muscles are contracting by tensing and relaxing, but the body doesn’t move. While this is a slow-working exercise, it can be much less strenuous on your joints than traditional strength training.
Swimming and Water Aerobics
Swimming and water aerobics are one of the least stressful workouts for your joints, while still providing the conditioning they need for flexibility. This is due to water’s buoyancy, which is much gentler on the joints than higher-impact workouts. And there are a surprisingly large number of workouts that can be done in water besides just swimming, like bicycling, jumping jacks, and squats to name a few. Consider looking into a local water aerobics class and be sure to let your instructor know about your joint limitations before beginning your routine.
Yoga or Tai Chi
Yoga and tai chi are both forms of body awareness exercises. While some movements or forms can be excessively strenuous, there are many gentle forms of yoga and tai chi that are joint-friendly. Both can help to increase your range of motion, boost flexibility, improve balance, and tone muscles. They are also excellent at promoting relaxation.
Tips to Keep Your Joints Safe
In addition to the above stretches and workouts, keep the following tips in mind when beginning your routine to reduce overuse injuries and further aggravating joints.
Start Slow and Move Gently
Building flexibility and strength is a marathon, not a sprint. If you don’t usually workout, start very slowly – only a few minutes a day and gradually work up to longer workouts. Also, keep your movements easy and gentle. Working out should be somewhat challenging, but not painful. If you feel pain or notice swelling or redness in your joints, stop and talk to your doctor about what is normal and what may be caused by overexertion.
Stick to Low-Impact
Avoid anything that puts stress on your joints, like running, jumping, or lifting heavy weights. If it is a high-impact workout or sport, it will only increase your joint pain or damage.
Use Heat and Ice
Heat and ice treatments can be a great addition to your workout routine. Heat treatments, such as warm towels, rice bags, or heating pads can help to relax your joints and muscles. They should be applied warm - not hot - and used for roughly 20 minutes at a time. Ice can be applied for up to 20 minutes as well to help reduce swelling.
Talk to Our Specialists About Additional Joint-Friendly Treatments
The specialists at MidAmerica Orthopaedics are well versed in joint pain management and offer a variety of surgical and non-surgical treatment options. If you need additional guidance on managing joint pain, we can help. Give us a call to discuss your available care options or to make an appointment with one of our orthopaedic specialists at (708) 237-7200.