Joint pain can rob you of life's simple pleasures — you may no longer look forward to walking your dog, gardening, or chasing a tennis ball across the court. Even the basics of getting through your day, like getting into the car or carrying laundry to the basement, can become sharp reminders of your limitations.
But the right exercises performed properly can be a long-lasting way to subdue ankle, knee, hip, or shoulder pain. Although it might seem that exercise would aggravate aching joints, this is simply not the case. Exercise can actually help to relieve joint pain in multiple ways:
- It increases the strength and flexibility of the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the joints. When thigh muscles are stronger, for example, they can help support the knee, thus relieving some of the pressure on that joint.
- Exercise relieves stiffness, which itself can be painful. The body is made to move. When not exercised, the tendons, muscles, and ligaments quickly shorten and tense up. But exercise — and stretching afterward — can help reduce stiffness and preserve or extend your range of motion.
- It boosts production of synovial fluid, the lubricant inside the joints. Synovial fluid helps to bring oxygen and nutrients into joints. Thus, exercise helps keep your joints "well-oiled."
- It increases production of natural compounds in the body that help tamp down pain. In other words, without exercise, you are more sensitive to every twinge. With it, you have a measure of natural pain protection.
- It helps you keep your weight under control, which can help relieve pressure in weight-bearing joints, such as your hips, knees, and ankles.
If all this isn't enough, consider the following: exercise also enhances the production of natural chemicals in the brain that help boost your mood. You'll feel happier — in addition to feeling better.
For more on developing and mastering an exercise plan to combat joint pain, buy The Joint Pain Relief Workout, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.