Fitness, Wellness, Whole Health

Exercise – Help Alleviate Arthritis Pain

When living with pain from osteoarthritis arthritis and stiff joints, any thoughts of moving around are accompanied by reluctance.  However, inactivity can actually worsen the pain.

Exercise increases blood flow (delivering nutrients) to the joint where cartilage has worn away, and bone is rubbing on bone.  Also exercise helps to:

  • increase flexibility and strength (to support bones)
  • decrease bone loss
  • control joint swelling
  • release synovial fluid, lubricating cartilage of the affected joint.


I. Warm Up First

Use dynamic stretching to move your joints gently before starting any strengthening or aerobic training.  A 5-10 minute warm up helps to loosens muscles, preparing your body for the challenges of strength training and range-of-motion exercises.


Leg Swing, Anterior / Posterior
  1. Stand on right leg.  Hold onto a support, if needed.
  2. Using control, swing left leg back and forth.
  3. Repeat, swinging the right leg.
  4. Swing each leg 15-20 times.

Shoulder Flexion
  1. Raise right arm, to point at the ceiling.  Keep elbow straight.
  2. Hold for a couple of seconds.
  3. Lower right arm, while raising left arm up toward the ceiling.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds.
  5. Continue alternating arms for 20-25 repetitions.

II. Keep the Impact Low

Walking, body weight exercises, riding stationary bikes / elliptical trainers, or water aerobics are examples of low impact exercises that minimize joint stress. 


  1. Stand tall so that your feet are just wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Drop your butt back and bend your knees to lower into a squat.
  3. Straighten your knees, bringing body back to starting position.
  4. Repeat 8-10 times.
Side Lean, Parallel
  1. Sit up straight with legs and arms extended.  Palms are facing forward, feet flexed.
  2. Exhale leaning to the right side; maintain hip positioning on the floor.
  3. Inhale upon return to starting position.
  4. Repeat on left side.
  5. Perform 8-10 repetitions on each side.

Step 1
Step 2

Plank Walk Out

This exercise works to improve core strength through an entire range of motion. The movement also improves flexibility and upper body strength, particularly in the shoulders.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend over and place your hands on the floor just in front of your feet; engage hamstring (thigh) muscles.
  3. Shift weight onto your hands and begin to walk them forward. (Brace your core, squeeze your glutes (buttocks), and keep a flat back as you walk.)
  4. Walk your hands out until you are in a plank position; hands should be beneath your head. (Body should form a straight line from shoulders to feet; do not let hips sag.)
  5. While on your toes and elbows, pull in abs (abdominal muscles) to stabilize your trunk.  Do not arch back. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  6. Return to start position by reversing direction back to beginning position.

This exercise is basically an upper and lower-body exercise, along with a good cardio workout.

III. Go slowly

Exercise with slow and easy movements. If you feel pain, take a break. Sharp pain and pain that is stronger than your usual joint pain or swelling / redness may indicate that something is wrong.


Lunge, stationary
  1. Step forward with right foot, placing feet in a wide stride. Legs are shoulder width apart.  Keep head up.
  2. Simultaneously, bend both legs until forward thigh is parallel (or almost parallel) to the floor.
  3. Do 8-10 repetitions with the right foot forward.
  4. Repeat with left foot forward, 8-10 reps.
  5. Add more reps or a put a dumbbell in each hand as strength and endurance increase.
Abdominal Curl
  1. Lie on back with knees bent.
  2. Engage abs (tighten stomach) to lift shoulders up off floor.
  3. Slowly lower back down, taking 3 -5 seconds to do so.
  4. Perform 10-12 repetitions, increasing the number of reps as strength and endurance increases.

IV. Cool Down

Devote about ten minutes at end of your workout to Cool Down. It works to gradually lower heart rate and body temperature. A sudden change from strenuous to less demanding movements can cause lightheadedness. Example(s):

Side Stretch
  1. Stand with feet together.
  2. Reach arms up, with palms together overhead
  3. Bend body to one side as far as possible.
  4. Hold 7-10 seconds.
  5. Repeat on other side.
Low Back Flexion
  1. Stand with feet together.
  2. Bend forward from the hips.
  3. Touch toes, if possible. Do not bounce.
  4. Exhale, flexing neck and spine.
  5. Slowly, return to start position.
  6. Repeat.

V. Do NOT overdo

Take it easy. Slowly increase your workout time and intensity as you progress. Even moderate exercise can help to ease pain and maintain body weight.

By NOT exercising, the supporting muscles around your joints will weaken creating extra stress on your joints.

Talk to your doctor about exercising for the type of arthritis you have.

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