7 Exercises to Help Relieve Joint Pain

Regular Exercise Can Help Ease Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and fatigue that people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experience can make you want to stay on the couch. The less movement, the less risk for pain, right?

Wrong. In fact, the opposite is true. Regular exercise can actually help ease joint pain and other RA symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “People who exercise have improved daily function, decreased depression and fatigue, reduced pain, and improved sleep,” says Hareth Madhoun, DO, a rheumatologist at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center in and around Columbus, Ohio.

7 exercises to help relief pain


A review published in April 2017 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews looked at multiple studies that covered the effect of physical exercise on chronic pain and found evidence suggesting positive effects overall (with the caveat that more quality research is needed). There’s little downside to exercise, the researchers concluded, and the valuable benefits of staying active include improved physical function, less severity of pain in joints and other areas, and improvements in quality of life.

Hensley suggests people with RA do aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, or biking three to five times a week, eventually working up to sessions of 30 to 60 minutes each. Just be sure to talk to your doctor about your exercise plans before you get started.

exercises to help relieve joint pain

For people with RA, fatigue may be a big obstacle in staying active. Research published in the Israel Medical Association Journal in January 2014 found that 40 to 80 percent of people with RA claim symptoms like weakness, lack of energy, and tiredness are the most debilitating part of the disease. Especially when accompanied by joint pain, fatigue can be a huge deterrent to getting regular exercise.

If this is happening to you, Dr. Madhoun suggests remembering that decreased activity actually “results in reduced muscle strength and ultimately can lead to increased arthritis pain and disability.”

In other words, don’t use RA as an excuse not to exercise. Instead, make it your reason to get moving. Start with these seven expert-recommended RA exercises.

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