Soothing Exercise for Cranky Painful Joints

Have you stopped exercising because of painful joints?  It’s time to start moving again for your joint health!

Arthritis and bursitis can cause joints to feel swollen and sore throughout the day.  Unfortunately our normal response to sensitive, cranky joints is to reduce our activity level.  Yet, one of the best things we can do for those joints is gentle exercise. Movement is necessary to keep the muscles surrounding our joints strong and mobile. When your joints are cranky try this three-step joint soothing technique: a simple isometric contraction followed immediately by gentle static and dynamic or mobilizing stretches.
It’s all about an isometric contraction
Let’s review what I mean by isometric contraction.  An Isometric contraction has ‘no joint movement’ (which is why it is one of the most comfortable contractions to perform for those with sensitive joints).  In these types of contractions you push or pull one body part against another or any immovable surface. After holding the contraction for five to six seconds, you then immediately stretch the same muscle/s statically (holding the stretch at the point of gentle tension). Follow the static stretch with a dynamic, mobilizing stretch (including controlled full range joint motion). This three-step process will increase muscle blood flow, warming and thinning the synovial fluid to allow for better joint protection and more comfortable movements throughout the rest of the day. Below are several joint specific examples.

Shoulder
Contract: press your palms together at chest height.  Keep pushing as you count out load to five.  Build the tension with each count. This will contract all the muscles in the front of the shoulder girdle, chest and arms.
Stretch: open your arms out to the side with your thumbs pointing back and hold the static stretch for 3 to 5 deep breaths.
Mobilize: Finish off with 8 to 12 breaststrokes followed by 8 to 12 backstrokes (alternating right and left arms). Try to increase the range of motion of these strokes gently while keeping the spine stable and elbows slightly bent.

Spine
Contract: push your spine gently back against a firm surface such as a wall or tall chair back. Keep pushing as you count out load to five.
Stretch: Place your hands on your thighs from a seated or standing position.  Hinge forward from your hips and gently stretch your back towards the ceiling like and angry cat. Hold the stretch for 3 to 5 deep breaths.
Mobilize: From the same position as you were using during the stretch move your spine 8 to 12 times from a flat back position to the angry cat. Be sure to keep your hands supported on your thighs.

Hip
Contract: from a standing position place one hand on a sturdy surface such as a wall, chair back or counter top, lift the opposite leg and press downward on the thigh with your free hand. Keep pushing as you count out load to five.
Stretch: take the lifted leg and position it behind you in a lunge position.  Sink down into the lunge until you feel a stretch in the hip and thigh of the back leg.  To enhance the stretch tilt your pelvis under.  Hold for 3 to 5 deep breaths
Mobilize: slowly swing the leg you were stretching forward and back 8 to 12 times (swing from the hip with the knee in a bent position).  Followed with 8 to 12 small outward circles of the leg in the hip joint.  Stay tall and stable through the spine and standing leg.
*Repeat the entire process with the opposite leg.

Points to Remember:
*Your muscles will always stretch better once you warm them up. This can be accomplished externally by taking a hot shower or stretching in a warm environment as well as internally by performing 5 or more minutes of light cardio work such as walking.

*Exercise can only do so much to help protect and relieve joint stress.  Avoid anything that causes extreme joint pain, and cut back on what you are doing if you experience a heightened sensation of pain several hours post exercise.