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January 25, 2014

The secret to joint pain relief — exercise

Joint pain: it throbs, aches, and hurts. It may make you think twice about everyday tasks and pleasures like going for a brisk walk, lifting grocery bags, or playing your favorite sport. Sharp reminders of your limitations arrive thick and fast, practically every time you move.

What causes joint pain?

The culprits behind joint pain tend to be:

  • osteoarthritis
  • old injuries
  • repetitive or overly forceful movements during sports or work
  • posture problems
  • aging
  • inactivity

How exercise can help

Ignoring the pain won’t make it go away. Nor will avoiding all motions that spark discomfort. In fact, limiting your movements can weaken muscles, compounding joint trouble, and affect your posture, setting off a cascade of further problems. And while pain relievers and cold or hot packs may offer quick relief, fixes like these are merely temporary.

By contrast, the right set of exercises can be a long-lasting way to tame ankle, knee, hip, or shoulder pain. Practiced regularly, joint pain relief workouts might permit you to postpone — or even avoid — surgery on a problem joint that has been worsening for years by strengthening key supportive muscles and restoring flexibility. Over time, you may find limitations you’ve learned to work around will begin to ease. Tasks and opportunities for fun that have been weeded out of your repertoire by necessity may come back into reach, too.

Beyond the benefits to your joints, becoming more active can help you stay independent long into your later years. Regular activity is good for your heart and sharpens the mind. It nudges blood pressure down and morale up, eases stress, and shaves off unwanted pounds. Perhaps most importantly, it lessens your risk of dying prematurely. All of this can be achieved at a comfortable pace and very low cost in money or time.

For more on developing and mastering a plan to relieve your joint pain, buy The Joint Pain Relief Workout, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.