A properly designed exercise program can not only increase your pain threshold, but also can raise your fitness level and stamina. Exercise can play a role in pain management and decrease the effects of fatigue. Strong muscles can protect your affected joints from pain and make your everyday activities less strenuous. Stronger muscles also provide you with greater range of motion (ROM) to help you with your day.
A few helpful tips before starting an exercise routine:
- Discuss exercise plans with your doctor.
- Start with supervision from a physiotherapist or personal trainer.
- Stretch and warm-up with range of motion exercises.
- Start strengthening exercises slowly with small weights.
- Progress slowly.
- Apply heat before stretching with helps increase flexibility.
- Use cold packs after exercise.
- Reduce the number of repetitions if your joints become painful, inflamed, and work with your doctor to find the cause.
- Choose the exercise program you enjoy most and make it a habit.
- If any of the exercises cause significant or persistent pain, stop doing them and talk with your doctor.
Range of motion exercises
Range of motion exercises are gentle stretching exercises which move each joint as far as comfortably possible (without pain) in all directions. They should be done daily to keep joints mobile and prevent stiffness. Examples include head turns, knee lifts, Shoulder circles, and ankle circles.
The key to preventing injuries before exercising is to warm up. When you are stretching, you should not feel pain. Staying relaxed is important to stretching properly. Breathe slowly. Examples include hamstring stretch, finger spread, and side bends.
Strong muscles help support joints, making them more stable for easier movement and less pain. If the muscle surrounding the bone or cartilage is strengthened, there will be stability, support and shock absorption to prevent further injury. Programs should start with a few repetitions with a gradual build up. Isometric exercise (in which you contract your muscles without moving the joint) should be held for 6 seconds, repeat 5 – 10 times, with a 10-second rest between contractions. The muscle groups to target are the muscle of the hips, fingers, knees, legs, shoulders, hands, and neck. Do two sets. Exercise three times per week with one day off to allow muscles to recover.
Aerobic exercise helps improve cardio fitness, controls weight, and improve health. These exercises should be done for 5 – 10 minutes initially, with a gradual increase to 20 – 30 minutes, three times per week. Examples include walking, bicycling, and pool exercises.
Reference: The Arthritis Society