You can do orthopedic exercises for yourself at home – and reduce your arthritis pain safely and effectively. The following exercises for arthritis help patients to become stronger and more flexible, while increasing endurance and balance.
Resistance Training for Orthopedic Strength
Stronger muscles can act as ‘shock absorbers’ for your joints (just like the shocks in a truck). By lifting something heavier than the joint itself, you can improve strength. This can often be done using just your own body weight.
To build the strength of your quadriceps (thigh muscles), you can do simple squats out of a chair:
- Sit in a chair
- Lean forward
- Stand up
For a variation that strengthens the same muscles, you can lean against a wall with knees slightly bent. Hold this position for 10 seconds, stand up, rest a bit and repeat!
Stretching to Improve Flexibility
Everyone knows stretching is good for our bodies, but many think of Cirque du Soleil when discussing flexibility. Even a small increase in stretching can prevent orthopedic problems like arthritis from progressing and can help the pain. It can be done whenever you think about it. A good stretch begins by moving the joint to a position where you feel that it has been stretched, hold for 10 seconds and then push very slightly more. Heating before stretching and then icing afterwards helps as well.
Sample Exercise: Hip and Knee Stretch
You may only be able to reach your knees when you begin; even moving to the mid-calf will be great for arthritis in the hips and knees.
- Sit on the floor and reach for your toes until you feel a comfortable stretch.
- Hold for 10 seconds
- Push slightly more into the stretch
Aerobic Exercise for Endurance
Motion is key to orthopedic health. Joints that do not move will deteriorate and become even more arthritic joints. Low impact aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, and bicycling will strengthen your heart and lungs, allowing you added energy throughout the day. Endurance depends on how much oxygen gets to the muscles and joints, and how the muscles and joints use that oxygen.
Sample Exercise: Walk
The impact of running will negatively affect your arthritic joints, but walking will not and actually helps the joints. Walking for 20-30 minutes at least three times a week is recommended.
Balance for Even Weight Distribution
Balance involves the ability to maintain one position for a long time without falling. It is a variation of endurance, and improves with better strength and flexibility. Balance is very important for joints as it allows for an even distribution of weight. When weight is evenly distributed then cartilage is not as easily damaged (causing orthopedic ailments such as arthritis). Yoga and Tai chi are both good ways to improve balance, and reduce the rates of hip and wrist fractures.
Sample Exercise: Tree Pose (Yoga)
- Stand on one leg
- Place the sole of the other foot on the standing calf, making sure to not let it rest on a joint like the knee or ankle
- Focus on a spot on the wall and hold still
- Leave the toe of the other foot on the ground and place the heel against the ankle
By doing these few simple exercises in a short amount of time at home, you can gain relief from the pain and discomfort of arthritis.
Incorporate this routine and other simple exercises (as recommended by your physical therapist or orthopedic doctor) into a regular, daily routine to experience greater strength, endurance, and flexibility for improved health and movement!