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Exercise & Joint Pain

A poll on our social media told us that 82% of respondents didn't like jumping and 80% didn't like running. The main reason for this was down to suffering with joint pain (47%).

There's a few possible reasons for joint pain.

Knee Pain

The knee is arguably the most complained about joint in the body and is one of the most complex.

It’s particularly vulnerable as it takes the full weight of our body. We use it heavily every day so it can be prone to pain & injury.

While knee pain is a common complaint and a popular reason to see a doctor, it’s actually something that can be prevented or treated fairly simply.

Pain in the knee is not always a problem with the knee itself!

Menopause

Amongst the many symptoms of menopause, joint stiffness, aches and pains is a common one for many women.

Backs, knees and hips are the most affected joints, followed by hands, fingers, wrists, shoulders and even your jaw! For some women, these will be no more than minor twinges, but for others it can cause chronic, debilitating pain.

Although there is no clear direct link between the decrease in oestrogen and painful joints, HRT has been shown to alleviate symptoms during trials.

It can also help to prevent thinning of the bones, which can lead to osteoporosis.

Arthritis

Arthritis is another cause of joint pain.

Arthritis is a common condition and refers to inflammation and stiffness of the joints and can affect people of any age, including children.

The 2 most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis is largely caused by wear & tear, is more common for women over 45 & if there is a family history of it.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your joints.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is another condition that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain.

Symptoms can often be confused with Menopause and Arthritis. The exact cause is unknown but it's believed to be a combination of genetics & environmental factors.

There are several treatments available (medication, therapy, lifestyle changes etc..) but exercise in particular has been found to have a number of important benefits for people with fibromyalgia, including helping to reduce pain.

Is it safe to exercise?

Yes! (Always check with your GP if you have any concerns)

Exercise will not do any harm to your joints. Even though you might not feel like exercising, there is strong evidence that exercise can reduce swelling in inflamed joints.

If you have a particularly bad flair up and your joint is particularly swollen, it is best to rest. But you can still exercise the other joints!

Exercise is beneficial to EVERYONE but this is especially true for anyone suffering from stiff and painful joints.

Regular exercise is essential as it helps to strengthen the muscles that protect and support the joints.

The Deconditioning Cycle

Image of the 5 stages of the deconditioning cycle

Avoiding exercise altogether is not the solution if you have joint pain, although you may wish it to be true!

The reason is that as you become less active, your muscles become weaker (remember muscle naturally deteriorates with age anyway), which makes your joints MORE unstable and therefore MORE stiff & painful.

So what exercise should you be doing?

Firstly, if you are at all concerned about starting to exercise, speak with your GP or a qualified fitness professional.

It is always best to start slowly and build up the length & intensity of exercise over time. You don't want to injure yourself on day 1!

Any exercise can be beneficial and it doesn't have to involve running or jumping.

  • Cardio: Walking is an excellent weight-bearing form of exercise. Pick up the pace if you're able, to really get your heart pumping.
  • Resistance training: This is particularly beneficial to your joints as it helps to strengthen the muscles surrounding them to provide better support & stability.
  • Flexibility: Activities like yoga or Tai Chi can help to reduce joint stiffness & improve flexibility.

Try to find something you enjoy and that you'll be able to stick to. Even a few minutes a day can make a big difference.

If running or jumping is uncomfortable for you, seek out low impact exercise that won't put any undue stress or impact on your body.

Exercise using body weight & resistance bands is a great low impact example of resistance training.

 

Check out low impact movement with long body bands here or movements with short booty bands here

 

Further reading:

Arthritis Action

NHS

Harvard Medical School

MayoClinic