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The Joint Pain Relief Workout: Healing exercises for your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles

Is joint pain holding you back? Perhaps an achy ankle or sore knee is making it difficult to enjoy a run through your favorite park or even a short walk? Or a throbbing hip or shoulder prevents you from driving a golf ball down the fairway or from performing simple tasks like carrying a bag of groceries into your home? The exercises in this report can help relieve ankle, knee, hip, or shoulder pain, and help you become more active again, which in turn can help you stay independent long into your later years. 

Designed by knowledgeable exercise experts, our workouts are intended to strengthen the muscles that support your joints, increase flexibility in your joints, and improve range of motion. Done regularly, these exercises can ease pain, improve mobility, and help prevent further injury.

The Joint Pain Relief Workout includes four workouts targeting your ankles, hips, knees, and shoulders. You’ll find detailed instructions for each exercise, as well as information on how to adapt each exercise to make it either harder or easier, so you can tailor it to your ability. In addition, the report includes mini-workouts to address wrist and elbow problems, a planning worksheet to help you get started and stay motivated, and answers to common exercise questions.

Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Edward M. Phillips, M.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, and Director and Founder, Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, as well as Master Trainers and Fitness Consultants Josie Gardiner and Joy Prouty. (2014)

  • Taking the first steps
    • Why exercise helps joints
    • How much exercise should you aim for?
  • Safety first
    • Do you need to see a doctor?
    • Fitness professionals
    • 15 tips for safe exercise
    • Posture and alignment
  • Getting started
    • Walking: A simple cardio workout
    • When walking hurts
    • Why weight matters for joint pain
  • Dig deep for motivation
  • Using the workouts
    • What information is in each workout?
    • Answers to six common workout questions
  • Ankle workout
    • Ankles 101
    • Ankle exercises
  • Knee workout
    • Knees 101
    • Knee exercises
  • Hip workout
    • Hip 101
    • Hip exercises
  • Shoulder workout
    • Shoulder 101
    • Shoulder exercises
  • Wrist and elbow mini-workout
  • Resources
  • Glossary

If you haven’t been working out regularly, or even if you have, you may have some questions about getting started on the workouts in this report. Here we answer some common questions.

1. Which workout should I do?

That depends on which joints are bothering you. If it’s an ankle, turn to “Ankle workout”; if it’s your hips, turn to “Hip workout.” What if it’s both? It’s safe to do both routines as long as the problems you’re experiencing are described in the workout introductions. If you have more significant joint problems, or if you have any doubts, see your doctor before you start any workout!

Pair the workout or workouts you choose with the weekly walking program or another choice to get the cardio tune-up your body needs.

2. What if I can’t do all the reps or sets suggested?

Quality is much more important than quantity. While you want to challenge yourself, it’s okay if you can’t do all the recommended reps or sets at the start. Begin by trying to finish a single set of each exercise in the workout, then gradually work up to more as you progress. Within any set, only do as many reps as you can manage while following instructions, maintaining good form, and sticking to the specified tempo. If necessary, try lightening up the weight or resistance to make this possible.

3. How much weight or resistance should I use?

It’s wise to have a selection of light weights (1, 2, and 3 pounds) and resistance tubing or bands (light through medium resistance).

Select the highest weight or level of resistance that allows you to accomplish all of the following:

  • maintain good form throughout the exercise
  • stick to the specified tempo
  • complete the suggested number of reps and sets
  • achieve a full and pain-free range of motion.

Wait until you find it easy to meet all four requirements before you increase the weight or resistance for a particular exercise. If it’s difficult to meet any of the four, decrease the weight or resistance.

As you try the exercises, you’ll find some muscle groups are stronger than other groups. Thus, you’ll need to vary the amount of weight or resistance used in the course of your workout.

4. How often should I do the exercises in a workout?

A full workout incorporates warm-ups, muscle strengthening exercises, and stretches. We recommend doing full workouts two to three times a week. Strenuous exercise like strength training causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. The muscles grow stronger as the tears knit up. Always allow at least 48 hours between strength training sessions to give the muscles time to recover. Warm-ups and stretches can be done more often—even daily—to enhance flexibility.

The following reviews have been left for this report. Log in and leave a review of your own.

Again i refer to my previous about the "Arthritis" article: Well written article, nice exercises and good guidance according to how you can go through it. On the other hand i feel that it could have covered a wider aspect of this issue, by writing about the physiological benefits and influence of such exercises. In that way the article can be beneficial for both students and people inside health care taking into account the deeper understanding such people can get. It is important to know that moderate strength training helps the joint (this is the result), but how in terms of microscopical physiological processes.
Excellent collection of exercises for just about every joint in your body. One feature I really like: the authors tell you how to make each exercise more challenging, if it's too easy for you, or less challenging, if it's too hard for you. If you have joint pain, please give these exercises a try. I have recurring tendonitis in one wrist, recently took up a general strength-training program, and was surprised to discover that certain movements became pain-free for the first time in years. Imagine what targeted exercises can do.
It is good to find advice that (a) can plausibly be done by most people, (b) is not driven by fanatics, and (c) based on evidence, seems to work. The long-term benefits remain to be seen, but short-term they definitely help.
Marvelous. I haven't as yet worked through all the exercises, but in just a few weeks my arthritic foot has become fully functional and virtually pain-free.I am recommending it to everyone I know.
I find the material a bit pricey for a thin book (40 page) but it does provide a concise set of exercises for the joints and the instructions are clear.
Very disappointing - and not worth $18! Might be OK if you've had little or no exposure to exercise, but I learned very little new of value. I expected much more from Harvard . All this info is readily available on line for free with a few simple searches.
This Health Report is very useful. So, I read it once, then went to a gym store and bought some equipment (mat, stability ball... stuff like that). Read the Health Report again. Started exercising. Feel a lot better!
A bit pricey but gives easy to understand and to follow practical advice. Nothing revolutionary, just basic advice that seems to work
Well-laid out, clear instructions and pictures, very good advice on how to do more (or less) of each exercise to meet your individual circumstances. The exercises are quite helpful although not fully restorative. I have been doing the knee exercises, and that section rates 5. I gave a 4--I have no opinion beyond that one section.
Terribly disappointing - and a ripoff at $18! If you've had little or no exposure to exercise, perhaps it could prove useful. For me, having had knee and shoulder problems and experience in physical therapy, yoga and regular exercise, it was obvious, predictable and cut no new ground at all. I expected much more from this series, and would be cautious about buying again.

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