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7 Reasons To Exercise When You Have Chronic Joint Pain

Written by: Leslie Parran, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Should you exercise when you have chronic joint pain? Some people believe that you should, and others think that if something causes pain, you shouldn’t. Well, it’s somewhere in between. Overall, though, regular exercise is important when you have chronic joint pain, and here’s why.

Regular exercise:

  • Reduces chronic joint pain.

  • Strengthens bone and promotes joint flexibility and mobility.

  • Exercise promotes activity which can help you sleep better at night.

  • Promotes weight control. Excess weight can strain your joints.

  • Promotes energy and reduces fatigue to help you function better throughout the day.

  • Improves balance, decreasing your risk of falling.

  • Promotes longevity and reduces the risk of chronic disease.

Here are some tips on how to exercise with chronic joint pain:

  • Listen to your body to eliminate pain triggers - Paying attention to your body and how it responds to food, rest, exercise, supplements, and stress is important. A great way to do this is to track these things so that you can get a picture of what may be triggering your pain to give you insight on how to address it. For example, sugar is a key example of a potential pain trigger for some individuals.

  • Learn 4 Easy Tips to Manage Pain with Exercise.

  • Check out the Arthritis Foundation - Go to the Arthritis Foundation for information on the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP) to get information on this program and local access.

  • Try gentle exercise first- Qi Gong is generally considered a safe exercise for individuals with arthritis with joints vulnerable to injury as it is designed for self-healing and can help support joint flexibility, motor function, and movement, diminish pain, and promote cognition, as well as stimulate circulation.¹

  • Use whole body vibration (WBV) training - WBV machines to provide a vibrating platform to transmit energy at various frequencies to your body. Bone density, muscle strength, and postural control may be enhanced through exercising with or using a whole body vibration device. A study of postmenopausal women showed significant increases in muscle strength and bone mass density of the hip.² WBV has also been shown to positively impact pain reduction and quality of life in fibromyalgia patients.³ For individuals who sit for long periods in the workplace and who have low back pain, WBV training has been demonstrated as an effective strategy for improving muscular control and decreasing pain.⁴

A good WBV device, such as a Power Plate®, can be found here. WBV devices can be purchased for home use and also are provided in many gyms. It is important to note that individuals who have a blood clotting disorder, a history of heart attack or stroke, or have a pacemaker should consult with their provider before using a WBV device. If you have balance issues, some device manufacturers provide stability bars as accessories.

  • Balance exercises - There are many types of balance exercises and balance training devices on the market. The key is to choose ones that you can do safely to avoid injury. Balance, as you age, is an important marker of longevity and developing good balance can help you avoid the risk of falling. Balance exercises were found to significantly reduce knee pain and increase knee stability in knee osteoarthritis patients.⁵

  • Core Stabilization Exercises - Increasing core muscle strength through core stabilization exercises such as planks, bridge, or yoga poses such as the Cobra pose may also help to reduce pain. In individuals with low back pain, core stabilization exercises improved balance, muscle thickness, and reduced pain.⁶

  • Try combination natural pain solutions - Try natural pain remedies for pain relief whenever possible instead of over-the-counter NSAIDs or prescription pain medication which can have adverse effects on your health long-term. Effectively relieving pain can help make exercise easier. Combinations of natural remedies often work best when you find the right combination for you. This may consist of a variety of techniques, including but not limited to the application of heat/ice, castor oil packs, Epsom salt baths, supplements, essential oils, massage, acupressure, acupuncture, meditation, red light therapy, physical therapy, etc. Consult a holistic or functional practitioner for help with a natural pain relief remedy.

  • Exercise during the day and not before bedtime - Exercise is best performed during the day and not at night before bed due to the impact on increasing stress hormones.⁷ In addition, if exercise results in increasing joint pain, this can also interfere with going to sleep.

  • Find the underlying sources of your pain - Functional lab testing can help uncover hidden sources of pain leading to imbalances within your metabolism. Dysfunction of your metabolism may be the root cause or a contributing factor to your pain.

How much should you exercise and what kind of exercise?

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise minimum, weekly, with necessary adjustments given age and medical condition.

  • Many studies have shown that regular exercise decreases the risk of death, prevents the development of certain cancers, lowers the risk of osteoporosis, and increases longevity.⁸ Patient-specific exercise programs for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) were found to be safe and effective in individuals with chronic joint disease and recommended as a part of an overall program for patients, given the impact on reductions in inflammatory markers, fatigue, and truncal fat.⁹

  • Exercise programs enhance longevity and should include a variety of exercises to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle function, flexibility, and balance.

  • Certain gentle exercises have a beneficial impact on reducing stress. Too intense or prolonged periods of exercise can increase stress, causing hormonal imbalances within the body. Qi Gong has been shown to decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels in healthy elderly adults.¹⁰

Excess stress and cortisol may lead to weight gain, leaky gut, and increased joint pain, among other symptoms. Complementary approaches of Tai Chi and Qi Gong have become increasingly popular as exercise forms in the U. S. especially with arthritis and acute and chronic pain.¹¹ These forms of exercise have also been shown to decrease distress for groups such as cancer patients and their caregivers.¹²


There are precautions, however, when you exercise and experience pain:

  • Always consult your provider before starting an exercise program.

  • Start slowly and gradually with a new exercise program.

  • Don’t over-exercise. Exercising for too long periods or too strenuously can result in increased pain or the development of new pain. Listen to your body and rest to recover.

  • Don’t perform an exercise where you feel that you are at risk for injury or fall.

  • If pain increases to a moderate or higher level (a level 7 or higher on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst pain imaginable), stop the exercise and don’t try exercising if the pain continues with regular activities of daily living.

  • Temporarily stop exercising if a new type or location of pain develops and is not alleviated by rest.

  • Whenever you feel that your pain continues to feel worse with exercise, or you have concerns about what types of exercise are reasonable for you, contact your provider.

Summary


While it may not feel right to exercise when you have chronic joint pain, it is important to consider the effects of physical inactivity on your health and the positive benefits that exercise ultimately may have on reducing joint pain and promoting health. Key wins can be made through consulting with your provider, looking for/addressing underlying pain causes and triggers, paying attention to your body, and gradually/consistently approaching exercise. Exercise can help you feel better, move better, and live better even when you struggle with chronic joint pain.


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Leslie Parran, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Leslie Parran is a leader in natural holistic healing from inflammation and pain. As a nurse for 40 years with advanced nursing certifications, Leslie helped patients with chronic diseases and pain. Now as a Board-Certified Functional Wellness Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner with several other holistic and functional practitioner certifications, she helps active and motivated people with chronic inflammation and pain move from pain to peace so that they feel better, move better, and live better.


Leslie is the Owner and Champion Peacemaker of Peace x Piece Wellness coaching. As a functional practitioner, she uses in-home lab testing to uncover hidden metabolic healing opportunities such as food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, gut pathogens, and toxins that can sometimes, unknowingly, lead to inflammation, pain, and chronic health conditions. As a health coach, she uses positive psychology and personalized holistic healing protocols, including diet, rest, exercise, stress management, and supplementation, to help her clients make their bodies work the way they are supposed to and achieve their wellness goals.

 

References:

  1. Marks R. Qigong Exercise and Arthritis. Medicines. 2017;4(4):71. doi:10.3390/medicines4040071

  2. Verschueren SMP, Roelants M, Delecluse C, Swinnen S, Vanderschueren D, Boonen S. Effect of 6-month whole body vibration training on hip density, muscle strength, and postural control in postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled pilot study. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2004;19(3). doi:10.1359/JBMR.0301245

  3. Mingorance JA, Montoya P, Miranda JGV, Riquelme I. The Therapeutic Effects of Whole-Body Vibration in Patients With Fibromyalgia. A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Neurology. 2021;12. doi:10.3389/femur.2021.658383

  4. Kaeding TS, Karch A, Schwarz R, et al. Whole-body vibration training as a workplace-based sports activity for employees with chronic low-back pain. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2017;27(12). doi:10.1111/sms.12852

  5. Ashtiani ARA, Akbari NJ, Mohammadi M, Nouraisarjou S. The Effect of Balance Exercises on Knee Instability and Pain Intensity in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis : A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Research in Medical and Dental Science. 2018;6(2).

  6. Hlaing SS, Puntumetakul R, Khine EE, Boucaut R. Effects of core stabilization exercise and strengthening exercise on proprioception, balance, muscle thickness and pain-related outcomes in patients with subacute nonspecific low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2021;22(1). doi:10.1186/s12891-021-04858-6

  7. Yamanaka Y, Hashimoto S, Takasu NN, et al. Morning and evening physical exercise differentially regulate the autonomic nervous system during nocturnal sleep in humans. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 2015;309(9). doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00127.2015

  8. Gremeaux V, Gayda M, Lepers R, Sosner P, Juneau M, Nigam A. Exercise and longevity. Maturitas. 2012;73(4). doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2012.09.012

  9. Azeez M, Clancy C, O’Dwyer T, Lahiff C, Wilson F, Cunnane G. Benefits of exercise in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized controlled trial of a patient-specific exercise programme. Clinical Rheumatology. 2020;39(6). doi:10.1007/s10067-020-04937-4

  10. Ponzio E, Sotte L, D’Errico MM, et al. Qi-gong training reduces basal and stress-elicited cortisol secretion in healthy older adults. European Journal of Integrative Medicine. 2015;7(3). doi:10.1016/j.eujim.2015.01.002

  11. Wang C (Chunyun), Li K, Choudhury A, Gaylord S. Trends in Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong Use Among US Adults, 2002–2017. American Journal of Public Health. 2019;109(5):755-761. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2019.304998

  12. Lopez G, Narayanan S, Christie A, et al. Effects of Center-Based Delivery of Tai Chi and Qi Gong Group Classes on Self-Reported Symptoms in Cancer Patients and Caregivers. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2020;19:153473542094160. doi:10.1177/1534735420941605

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