What are the best exercises and products for arthritis pain?
While exercise is crucial for anyone, those with arthritis know the importance of staying active. Unfortunately, chronic pain in the back, hips or knees means there are a limited number of exercises you can safely perform. If you’re struggling to find the right exercises to help you stay fit and keep arthritic pain to a minimum, you’re not alone.
As a performance enhancement specialist and founder of Serious Fitness, Judd NeSmith knows how to help individuals achieve optimum fitness. So, we asked for his advice on the best arthritis pain relief products and exercises.
What to know about arthritis
What is arthritis?
With over 100 types of arthritis, it is actually not a single disease and can’t be connected to a specific cause. Instead, arthritis is often used to refer to joint pain or joint disease. A few common types include osteoarthritis, which is when the cartilage cushioning the bones rubs away, and inflammatory arthritis. Inflammatory arthritis includes rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of being born with that certain genetic card for arthritis to run in the family,” NeSmith said.
Tips for managing arthritis
- “Exercise is not going to heal arthritis. However, it can prevent it from becoming worse. Exercise will build a stronger joint, add lean muscle and provide more stability,” NeSmith noted.
- Massage is excellent for arthritic inflammation. If you have a massage gun, use the small finger attachment and work it around the forearm muscles attached to your hand.
- One way exercise relieves pain is by promoting blood flow. Increased blood flow warms the soft tissue up, making it more pliable.
- Gaining weight over the years can put too much stress on the joint and cause arthritic pain. Losing weight will especially minimize the strain on your hips, knees and ankles.
Arthritis pain relief exercises
Regardless of the type of arthritis, staying active is one of the best ways to improve the pain. According to NeSmith, “Starting some type of exercise routine could make a big difference down the line. It really would improve pain, improve mobility and make you stronger.” However, the exercises that will benefit you depend on where your arthritis bothers you the most.
Arthritis in the spine or back
Pain in the spine or back is common as you get older due to faulty movement patterns and bad posture. To relieve the pain, you’ll want to focus on strengthening the middle-upper back, which will ultimately help you get back into proper alignment.
Resistance bands will be helpful for back exercises, but make sure they have a handle. NeSmith recommends doing standing band rows to improve your spine or experience back arthritis pain relief. For this exercise, attach the band to a pole, door or something solid. While facing the pole, grab the resistance band underhanded and pull it toward your belly button, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart. “Doing three sets of 15 reps with consistency every other day can really help a person improve cervical spine pain due to arthritis,” he said.
Arthritis in the hips
If you mainly feel pain in your hip joints, modified squats will be the most beneficial exercise. Instead of squatting all the way down, customize this move by only going down part of the way or by using the wall or a chair for support. Modified squats will not only strengthen the quadriceps around your knee, hamstrings and glutes, but they will also increase blood flow around the joints. While it seems like a simple exercise, NeSmith finds it to be one of the best ways to manage and even slow down arthritis.
Arthritis in the hands
One of the simplest ways to minimize arthritic pain in your hands is to exercise using hand strengtheners, such as grip balls or hand grippers. It promotes blood flow to the hands and strengthens the fingers. To do this properly, put both fingers and thumb around the handle. Aim to reach for 20 to 30 reps three times a day.
Arthritis in the knees
Wearing a knee brace while walking or exercising is essential for anyone with arthritis in their knees. A few recommended exercises include modified squats and calf stretches. Knee arthritis is common, and unfortunately, sometimes knee replacement surgery is the best option. However, NeSmith cautioned that while you may feel like you have a brand new knee, you should still limit the amount of activity.
Ankles and feet
Some easy exercises to strengthen these areas include splaying your toes, stretching your Achilles tendons and rotating your ankles. Using an exercise bike is one of the most effective means of alleviating arthritis pain in these areas, as well. Riding a stationary bike is a low-impact workout that loosens the joints and strengthens the muscles that support the knees, ankles and feet. Recumbent bikes are the safest option because you’re in a reclined position while using the machine.
More exercise equipment options
Rowing engages more than 80% of the muscles in your body and is especially beneficial for joint mobility and overall flexibility. It’s a low-impact exercise that alleviates pain in your spine, shoulder or hips. Free weights also ease joint pain and stiffness while enhancing both strength; depending on the exercises you do, this can help with arthritis in the spine, ankles, shoulders and upper back.
Best arthritis pain relief products
With a durable carabiner and adjustable tension level, users can customize the resistance level by stacking multiple bands. This exercise equipment set includes two cushioned handles, a waterproof carrying bag, two ankle straps and five labeled anti-snap latex bands in varying resistance levels.
This bundle includes a soft-, medium- and hard-density ball with a high-resistance gel core and smooth Lycra fabric. The stress balls are durable and hypoallergenic, and they retain their shape.
Since you can easily adjust the resistance level from 20 pounds to 90 pounds, this grip strength trainer is ideal for all training levels. It is compact enough to take on the go and has a curved design and anti-slip handle to provide security and comfort.
The bilateral aluminum hinges will provide support during exercising while allowing a natural range of motion. In addition, this arthritic pain reliever uses a compression sleeve and a combination of soft and rigid materials to provide maximum comfort.
This knee compression sleeve features the cooling sensation of micro-encapsulated menthol to reduce stiffness and pain. Plus, the anti-chafing seamless design and four-way stretch ensure you stay comfortable.
Ease tension, release soreness and tame arthritic pain and inflammation with this ultra-quiet massage gun. It features 120 minutes of battery life and connects to your smartphone with Bluetooth.
With this NordicTrack rowing machine, you’ll gain access to extensive studio classes led by an expert iFIT trainer, featuring scenic waterways around the world displayed on the 22-inch touch screen for a truly immersive experience. The resistance level automatically adjusts with the workout you choose; otherwise, you can make adjustments manually.
This Schwinn exercise bike tracks your speed, RPM, heart rate, calories, distance and time, displayed on the 5.5-inch LCD screen. It offers 13 workout programs and 16 resistance levels, giving you a wide variety of workout intensity options. The contoured seat and back support make it especially comfortable.
This affordable set is great for beginners, containing 3-, 5- and 8-pound dumbbells. They’re made of durable cast iron with a neoprene cover that provides a safe, nonslip grip.
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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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