Whether you’re trying to beat arthritis pain at the gym or simply mowing the lawn, the following tips from Hinge Health physical therapists can help make moving easier on painful joints.

    Many people with arthritis respond well to tai chi, a low-impact Chinese martial arts that combines stretching and rhythmic calisthenics.

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    1. Get Moving

    Your doctor can help you balance pain medications with diet, exercise, and other solutions. But a physical therapist (PT) can do so much more than show you how to squat.

    PTs focus on making sure your joints are moving properly to preserve their range of motion and help strengthen the surrounding muscles, which stabilize the joint. They can also teach you proper body mechanics for tasks such as getting in and out of a car, walking, or lifting things to reduce stress on the joint.

    A bit of joint soreness or stiffness is okay but if your pain and stiffness persist for hours or exacerbates with movement then it’s time to talk to your therapist about slowing down.

    2. Don’t Forget Your Small Muscles

    The hip, knee, and back muscles help you walk, climb stairs, and go from sitting to standing. But many people with arthritis forget to exercise these important muscles, which can make pain and stiffness worse.

    A physical therapist can create an exercise program that improves your range of motion and bolsters supporting muscles around the affected joints, which reduces pain and stiffness. A physical therapist can also teach you pool (aquatic) exercises that provide the same benefits as land-based exercise without twisting or pounding vulnerable joints.

    Thermal modalities—like heating pads, warm baths, and ice packs—can ease pain by increasing blood flow to the affected joint and relaxing muscle spasms around the painful area. But be careful with heat: prolonged use can cause burns.

    3. Don’t Overdo It

    Getting too much exercise can overwork muscles and make joint pain worse. While it is important to continue your home exercises between PT appointments, listen to your body and stop when you feel pain or achy joints.

    It’s important to think like Goldilocks when it comes to exercise intensity, frequency, and duration — not too little, not too much, but just right. Finding your movement sweet spot is key to a successful recovery and long-term arthritis management. Your physical therapist will help you figure out the best workouts for your individual needs.

    4. Be Patient With Yourself

    In the beginning, exercising with arthritis may cause a little pain. However, this should decrease over time as your joints get more fluid to lubricate them.

    It’s important to be patient with yourself as well. Getting into a routine takes time and dedication. PT can be tiring, and it’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see immediate results.

    Your therapist is there to encourage and guide you on your journey. They can help you identify barriers and misinformation about exercise, as well as introduce you to assistive devices like long-handled shoehorns, sock aids, and grab bars that will reduce stress on your joints.

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    5. Take Care of Your Mental Health

    With mental health awareness rising, it is important to remember that a healthy mind is just as crucial as a healthy body. Exercise and a positive outlook are just two of the ways you can achieve that.

    Don’t let arthritis keep you from living life to the fullest. A few simple modifications to your lifestyle can go a long way towards reducing pain and making it easier for you to get around. 

    For example, using a shower bench or grab bars in the bathroom can make it easier to wash your hands or get in and out of a bathtub. 

    Braces and splints can also reduce strain on joints. Your physical therapist can recommend assistive devices to help you get around or complete tasks at home.

    6. Be Patient With Your Doctor

    Many people with arthritis are advised to take medications, avoid activities that hurt and eventually get a joint replacement. These methods are not the best long-term plan for managing pain – they can have side effects, reduce mobility and weaken muscles, leading to even more pain and stiffness over time.

    Those with arthritis should work to strengthen muscles around affected joints, which can stabilize weakened joints and help alleviate pain. This can be done through gentle stretching and range-of-motion exercises.

    Your physical therapist can also teach you how to use assistive devices that can make daily tasks easier. These can include items like grab bars in the bathroom or shower, long-handled shoehorns and sock grippers.

    7. Be Patient With Yourself

    Developing patience is one of the most challenging aspects of the PT process. It requires delay of gratification and self-control, but it is essential for arthritis patients to realize that progress may not be obvious moment by moment, and to avoid getting discouraged.

    A physical therapist will develop an exercise program that doesn’t twist or pound vulnerable joints, and will also encourage you to do regular activities at home to counteract pain and stiffness throughout the day. These activities can include daily chores such as mowing the lawn, washing the dishes or cleaning the house.

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