If you’re suffering from joint pain, use these 4 joint friendly methods
The wear and tear on your joints as you age is real. Whether you’ve lived an active life or not, one of the realities of staying above ground is your joints will hurt. The joints of the back, knees, elbows, hips shoulders, ankle, and wrists will at some time flip you the bird. Hopefully, not all at once.
This is why joint friendly exercises are an important tool in your toolbox when joint pain flares up or if you have chronic joint pain. Although rest is important when you’re suffering from joint pain so is movement.
Benefits Of Exercising With Joint Pain
Resting for short periods can help with your joint pain but too much rest can also make it worse. Regular exercise can help ease pain by improving your muscle tone, strength, flexibility, and may cause the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. (1)
Because regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions (and healing blood supply to achy muscles and joints), through better blood supply that improves overall health by improving the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients. (2)
However, I feel the greatest benefit of moving while hurting is confidence. When you’re in pain you may lack the confidence to move your body but when you find movements that don’t hurt, it restores faith in yourself.
A Few Causes of Joint Pain
Note- I’m not a doctor and this is not a substitute for medical advice. These are a many reasons why joints hurt. These are just a few.
Here’s a few common conditions that cause joint pain.
Osteoarthritis- this type of arthritis usually affects your knees, hands, and hips, but can happen also in any joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis- is autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks healthy parts of your body by mistake. This pain starts in your hands, wrists, feet, and knees, but may spread to other areas too.
Tendinitis- is tendon injury that happens over time due to overuse, improper use due to movement issues above and below the joint. It often happens in your shoulders, heel and elbow. (Tennis elbow is a type of tendinitis.)
Tendonitis- is acute inflammation of the tendon and its symptoms include pain and stiffness in the morning, pain that worsens with activity, extreme pain the day after exercise.
Lack Of Stability Or Mobility In A Joint
Every joint in the human body has a mix of either stability(strength) or mobility(movement). The ankle joint needs more mobility because we need to walk, move and be awesome. Our knees need more stability because can you imagine if our knees wobbled like our ankles.
The hips need more mobility as we need the ability to squat, hinge, run, jump etc. If our hips were stable, it would put a damper on a lot of things. Our lower back is a stable joint as the vertebra down there is bigger to support the upper body. If the lower back was mobile your spine would be pissed.
The shoulder/chest area are mobile joints because they aid in moving the arms in all different directions and to do biceps curls. Don’t forget about those. Our elbows much like the knees are a stable joint as they both need to hinge and not wobble around from side to side.
Last but not least, the wrist is a mobile joint for obvious reasons I will not go into here because this is a family blog. If any of these joints either lack stability or mobility due to joint tissue stiffness or weakness, the other joints above or below will do the work of the impaired joint.
Because the body will always find a way to move, even if the joint is not operating like it should. Although this sounds good in theory, the joint doing a job that it’s not meant for, can lead to joint pain and injury.
For example, stiff ankles can lead to knee and hip pain and a lack of hip mobility is a cause of low back pain.
Joint Friendly Training Methods
It’s not the point of this article to diagnose you or ‘fix you’ but to work around your current joint pain to keep you fit and strong, reduce stress and restore confidence in your body. Here are a few of my go to methods when I or my clients suffer from joint pain.
Will some of these exercises hurt you? Maybe, that’s why there are four methods. Find the method that works for you and gives you the least amount of pain and the most amount of benefit.
Isometric is a muscle contraction without movement which is especially helpful when movement is painful. Think of isometrics like a tug of war between your muscles and gravity, with you being the winner.
For example, isometric squats help strengthen the muscles around the joint without movement. And isometric leg exercises have been shown to reduce the symptoms of knee pain too. (3)
Both these exercises train the quads and the hips which are both important for knee function and joint health. Strengthening the quads helps with stability around the knee joints.
Pairing them in a superset with another exercise that strengthens the hips and doesn’t hurt the knees works well. For example,
1A. Weighted wall squat 30 -120 seconds
1B. X crossover lateral walk 15 reps per side
Try to hold the iso squats for 30 seconds at the start then work into the 1-2-minute range. But be warned, these don’t tickle but neither does knee pain. Here are a few other isometric exercises you can work in the 30 seconds -120 second range to strengthen your muscles and joints hopefully without pain.
Reducing Your Range Of Motion
Pain is a complicated process, but it boils down to the brain sensing a threat, whether it’s real or perceived. By reducing the range of motion to a pain-free one, you cut the threat and still strengthen the muscles around your joints without pain.
When you reduce the threat, hopefully over time you’ll strengthen the joint to where the joint pain is lessened and you’ll be able to increase your pain free range of motion. Granted, it’s tricky, and this does vary from person to person.
However, like with all exercises, let pain be your guide. Box squats, rack pulls, and floor press are my go-to exercises here. Please adjust the height to a pain-free one and set aside some time to find your pain-free ROM.
All can be trained for strength or fat loss/muscle-building, depending on your level of joint pain. For example,
1A. Box squats, Rack Pulls Or Floor Press 2-5 sets 5-12 reps
1B. Half kneeling hip flexor 30-60 seconds per side
Exercising on the floor lessens the threats (real or perceived) to your nervous system because you’ve got the stability of being on the ground whether you’re on your back (supine) or on your hands and knees (prone).
What does this mean to you? Less threats your nervous system senses means less joint pain. This is why exercising on the floor is great when you’re suffering from muscle or joint pain.
Here’s an example of a floor exercise routine to maintain your sanity and increase confidence in your body if you’re suffering from joint pain.
1A. Egg Rolls – 6 each side
1B. Deadbug -6 reps each side
1C. Isometric Hip Extensions 30-60 seconds
1D. Six Point Rocking 15 reps
1E. Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch – 60 seconds on each side
Training With Resistance Bands
When you’re lifting barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells etc. they’re putting a certain amount of stress on your joints. This stress isn’t bad because that’s how your muscle get stronger.
However, when bands are not stretched they put minimal stress on your joints, which is great if you’re suffering from joint pain.
Furthermore, resistance bands don’t rely on gravity, reducing joint compression and saving you from joint pain while exercising. Because of this you can do a variety of exercises hopefully without pain.
You can anchor resistance bands to anything solid to hit all your muscles from different angles. It’s not muscle confusion but if you’re easily bored, you’ll like the variety of exercises you can do with bands. Here are a few examples.
Using the exercises above here are some exercise circuits you can do to keep in shape that don’t require a lot of time. Do one exercise after the other and do between 8-20 reps of each exercise. Keep the reps the same for each exercise to avoid confusion and run through these circuits two-four times
1A. Front Squats
1B. Alternating Chest Press
1C. Single Arm Row
1D. Overhead Triceps Extension
1E. Pallof Press
1A. Reverse Lunge
1B. Iso Chest Press
1C. Split Stance Row
1D. Reverse Curls
1E. Pull A Parts
Mild to moderate joint pain is not a death sentence although it may feel like it. Our bodies have a remarkable ability to heal itself and with certain types of exercise, you can give your joints a helping hand.
Then you can flip pain the bird.
If you need help exercising around joint pain, contact me here.