Whether you suffer from arthritis or some other cause of joint pain, building muscle strength around joints can greatly increase your flexibility and reduce chronic discomfort. If the muscles are strong, they lend support to joints and remove some of the strain.
Strengthening exercises are particularly important, according to the Mayo Clinic. Weight training, for example, is known to build muscle strength around joints and improve bone health. This does not mean that you have to lift weights or use complex machinery; strengthening exercises can be much simpler.
Physical therapists often prescribe elastic bands to exercise the muscle around joints. These inexpensive pieces of equipment are color-coded based on the degree of elasticity, and they can be used to develop muscle strength in the arms, legs, back, hips and other areas where joints become a problem.
You might also want to try exercises for joints that actually rotate the joint, building muscle strength and increasing flexibility at the same time. For example, a recumbent exercise bicycle gives your ankles, knees and hips the benefits of a bike ride-but with support for the back, shoulders and neck that is absent on a regular machine.
Swimming and water aerobics are excellent exercises for joints because the water provides a cushion that protects the joints from unnecessary strain. It also, however, provides resistance that will build muscle strength in a safe way.
For those who prefer exercises for joints that don’t require any special equipment or location, there are plenty of things you can do at home to increase muscle strength.
Stand in front of a chair or other sturdy object at home and hold on to the edge for balance. In sets of 10 (or whatever makes you comfortable), lift your heels off the floor by standing on your toes. Hold the position for 4-5 seconds, then lower slowly back to the ground.
Once you’ve completed your repetitions of this exercise, reverse it. Stand as before, holding on to a sturdy surface, and this time lift your toes off the ground as far as possible and count to five again. Slowly increase repetitions of this exercise to build muscle around joints of the ankle.
Squats and lunges are excellent exercises for the knee, but they may be too difficult for people who suffer from chronic knee pain or arthritis. It is possible to modify these exercises, however, so that anyone can tolerate them.
To build muscle strength of the knee, try sitting in a chair with the tops of the flat and the feet resting solidly on the floor. The legs should make a 90-degree angle. Then, slowly straighten the right leg until it is straight (or as far as it is comfortable), hold for five seconds and slowly return the right foot to the floor. Alternate legs for 10 repetitions.
The elbows are among the most difficult areas to target without equipment. However, you can build muscle strength in the elbow by utilizing household furniture.
Sit in a dining room or breakfast room chair with armrests, facing the table. Ideally, the table should be above waist height, slightly higher than the elbow. Put both palms against the underside of the table, with the palms facing up, and slowly push against the underside of the table. Hold for five seconds, then release.
You can also use household chores to build muscle strength in the elbows. For example, wringing a towel is great for the muscle around joints of the elbows and wrists, and it’s fairly low impact.
Whether or not you suffer from arthritis or another chronic joint ailment, safety is imperative when conducting exercises for joints. Make sure you clear any exercise program with your physician or physical therapist and that someone is always present to assist you when needed.