Stiff, achy joints can hold you back from getting enough exercise or even carrying out simple everyday tasks, and you may think that rest is the best, and only, solution – but that’s not the case. Studies show that people with joint pain who exercise to maintain flexibility and strength not only have a higher pain threshold than those who don’t, they also experience more joint pain relief.
When joints are in pain and feel difficult to move, it’s tempting to avoid more activity. But moving and using them actually increases flexibility over time: exercise stimulates blood flow to the joints and reduces inflammation, both of which decrease pain. Strength training is equally as helpful as flexibility training, because as the muscles surrounding joints become stronger, they offer more support, reducing the strain on the joint itself. Exercise also, of course, helps you shed excess weight, which is a major contributor to joint pain.
Before you begin any exercise regimen for your arthritis, back pain, or other chronic joint pain, it’s important to consult with your doctor and other professionals, such as trainers or physical therapists. Their expertise can help guide you towards the best maneuvers and exercises not only for your condition, but also for your particular quirks; they often begin with a postural assessment, which helps pinpoint triggers such as uneven hips or a postural habit such as favoring one side when you walk or leaning when you sit. These may be things you’ve never noticed, but they can affect the exercises you should perform – what works for everyone else may not work for you.
Don’t skip warming up before you start, even if it’s just five minutes: a light warmup eases joints, muscles, and tendons into activity by stimulating blood flow to the area and loosening them up. It’s just as important to stretch properly after even a light workout, to prevent muscles from tightening; this causes your other muscles to compensate by placing more strain on other areas – including joints.
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