Fortunately, taking medication isn’t the only way to reduce arthritis pain and inflammation. Doing certain exercises is a great way to relieve joint pain and reduce the need for braces. Always get your doctor’s approval before starting new exercises. He or she will most likely be ecstatic about your endeavor, and may provide recommendations for moving forward. As you might have already been told, exercises for arthritis should improve flexibility, range of motion and provide strength training. Here are 7 exercises that will help you do just that without overexerting yourself.
A walk a day keeps the doctor away. Choose your favorite time of day to go for a walk. For most people, this is early morning or in the evening. Wear your brace or braces if needed, and take a good thirty-minute walk. Work toward the goal of a 45-minute to an hour walk. Enjoy the walk and the fresh air, and go at a pace that pushes you a little beyond your comfort level at some points, but never to the point where it becomes painful or causes you to not want to walk the next day.
Yoga not only helps increase flexibility and relieve stress, it also helps to build strength and improve range of motion. These are all essential exercise goals for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Try to find a yoga instructor that has had students with arthritis before, and is comfortable helping you work through safe and effective postures. Use braces or support for your wrists, feet, or any other area where you need it the most to prevent pain and injury.
Tai chi is a gentle exercise highly recommended for rheumatoid arthritis patients. Tai chi exercises are gentle and stress-relieving. They also help to improve your range of motion. There are several lessons available online specifically for arthritis. Taichiproductions.com offers several tai chi lessons on video, some of which can be viewed for free. There is also a special video series called Tai Chi for Arthritis that has 12 lessons and is recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. You can find it here.
Immersing yourself up to your head in water takes the stress of most of your body weight off your joints, allowing you to exercise more easily and with less pain. The water’s resistance also allows for strength training so that you can build muscle while the water holds your body weight. Swimming or walking in warm pools is especially soothing for arthritis pain. Swimming and water walking also help improve range of motion. Learn more about water walking for arthritis here.
Strength Training with Weights
Strength training with weights will help to quickly strengthen your muscles which provides more support for your joints. The stronger your muscles are, the less you will need support from braces and joint pain will decrease over time. If you already have a moderate to severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, it is best to find a professional trainer that works with arthritis patients to help you safely build muscle strength. Always warm up your muscles first by walking or doing something to get your blood flowing a little, and then stretch. Weights should be lifted slowly and in a fluid range of motion. The work should be uncomfortable but not painful. When lifting a certain weight becomes effortless, slowly add weight to your routine. Don’t do weight training during flare-ups.
If you don’t choose to do yoga as a regular exercise, you should definitely stretch on a regular basis. Start by standing up as straight as you can with your feet aligned and flat on the ground. Then stretch your arms up toward the sky as high as you can. Next, sit on the ground and hold your arm out straight, then use your other hand to pull your arm across the front of your chest while keeping it straight. You should feel the stretch in your shoulder and back. Do the same with the other side. Next, slowly reach forward and try to grab your toes. If you bend your knees slightly, you will stretch your back more. Keep your legs straight to stretch your legs more. Proper breathing will help you to stretch. Try to improve your flexibility little by little over time.
Fingers and Toes
The small joints of your fingers and toes should not go neglected during your exercise routine. To exercise these small joints, make fists, then make an O shape by making a circle with your fingers and thumb. Next, place your palm on a flat surface and lift each finger one at a time, then hold out your hand and fold your fingers and thumb down toward your palm one at a time. Rotate your wrists, sit down and rotate your ankles and curl and uncurl your toes. Yoga poses can also help with the small joints of the hands, feet and wrists.
Frequent and light exercise can provide lasting rheumatoid arthritis relief if maintained. Additionally, rheumatoid arthritis can be managed with medications that provide pain relief like Enbrel, indomethacin and others. For more information about rheumatoid arthritis including a list of treatment options and medications, visit our Arthritis Conditions Page.