7 Easy Exercises to Beat Osteoarthritis Pain
Exercise Osteoarthritis Away
Osteoarthritis, often called degenerative joint disease, affects almost 27 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). And more than half of those have the disease in their knees, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
This painful condition occurs when the cartilage gets worn away on joint ends. When you’re in pain, the thought of exercise can be daunting, but research shows that building up the muscles around the joints can stave off the progression of osteoarthritis. It’s never too early—or too late—to start moving. Try these seven exercises to keep osteoarthritis at bay.
This move mimics sitting in a chair, but with the help of a wall. Press your back flush up against a wall, and lower your body down to a seated position. Then, slowly rise up. Do 10 to 12 reps. You can also try this move with an exercise ball.
Calf and Hamstring Stretches
Since osteoarthritis affects the knees for so many, keeping the legs and knees strong is important. Any routine should begin with good stretching. For an effective hamstring stretch, sit down on the ground, put one leg out in front of you and bend the other leg with the foot flush with your knee. Stretch forward as far as you can comfortably go. Switch legs and repeat.
Low impact? Check. Strength building? Check. For those who think that pumping iron or squats and lunges are too daunting, try a water aerobics class. These classes often use water weights for extra muscle development. If you already have some joint pain, the weightlessness of the water won’t put any extra stress on your body.
If full squats seem a little too difficult, try a half squat. These types of squats can be very effective at leg and knee strengthening. Start by standing up straight. Then, squat down about half way between a standing position and a seated position with your legs at a 90-degree angle. Try to do two sets of 10 to 12 reps. (You may need to build up to that.)
Having strong core muscles is great for overall strength. The classic abdominal crunch, if done correctly, can be an excellent abs strengthener. Lie down with your hand behind your head or folded on your chest, and press your spine flat into the floor. Raise your neck up no more than one or two inches off the ground and exhale as you come up. Make sure to keep your neck and chin straight. (To keep your chin straight, place your fist under your chin while rising up.) Hold the crunch at the top for a few seconds, and then lower down slowly.
You may feel a little silly at first, circling your arms like an excited child. But this simple exercise (with or without weights) can be very effective at tightening your arms and building arm strength. Stretch your arms out to your sides, keeping them straight. Then, make tiny circles as quickly and for as long as you can. This is something you can do at home, even while watching TV.
Similar to the half squat in its effectiveness, this is another good move for knees and legs. However, lunges work more muscles overall, because they bring balance into the mix. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Step forward with one leg and bend your knee while lowering your body until your back knee is a few inches from the ground. Repeat with the other leg, and work up to 10 times per leg. If you experience any knee discomfort, don’t lower yourself down as far.
Things to Remember
Remember that most weight-bearing exercises will help keep your muscles strong and your joints healthy. However, don’t overdo it with heavy weights—especially if you already have joint pain. Try yoga, Pilates, or even a martial arts class at your local gym. Just get those muscles moving!