4 Easy Exercises That Protect Your Joints and Fit into Your Day
When you’re experiencing joint pain as a result of psoriatic arthritis, it’s normal to want to curl up in bed and do nothing. After all, moving hurts. But physical therapist Lauren Peterson of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City says following that instinct is a mistake. “Movement is key [in managing psoriatic arthritis],” she explains.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, movement is the best way to keep your joints loose and limber, thereby helping to reduce both inflammation and pain. Not only that but building muscle through routine exercise can help to reduce the workload your joints take on. And there are some easy exercises you can start working into your routine today to begin reaping those benefits.
Good Movements vs. Bad Movements
Yes, you absolutely should move, but not all movement is good movement. “When your joints move, they produce synovial fluid, which reduces friction in your joints,” Peterson explains. “A good activity is something that might ache a little, initially, but any discomfort should improve with continued movement.”
As an example, she points out that many people wake up feeling stiff in the morning. But that stiffness reduces as they get up and start stretching and walking. Good movement helps their bodies to work through it.
“Good activities are going to include low-impact, consistent movement like walking, swimming, or riding a bike,” Peterson says. “A bad activity would be one that results in increased pain or is jarring, like running or jumping. If an activity results in increased pain, stop.”
Listening to your body and backing off when something causes pain is easy enough. But not everyone has the opportunity to move as much as they should throughout the day. Especially if you have a job that involves a lot of sitting at a desk or standing in the same position. All this lack of movement can have a negative impact on your joints. But there are ways to counteract that even when you might otherwise feel restricted in your movements.
Karena Wu, doctor of physical therapy and owner of New York-based ActiveCare Physical Therapy suggests prioritizing movement in any situation by doing the following exercises throughout your day:
Seated Knee Extension
Arthritic knees can get stiff when you’re sitting still. To prevent that, gently straighten and bend your knee from 90 degrees (sitting position) to 45 or 30 degrees (not fully straight) while seated. This reduces feelings of stiffness by moving the fluid in the joints.
Knee and Back Bends
Standing still can lead to a lot of stiffness in multiple joints. Keeping the low back and hips moving can help offset some of the dysfunction of that region and the lower body. Stand with your feet hip- or shoulder-width apart, with your hands behind you on your low back/upper buttocks. Gently lean backward for up to 10 repetitions to keep the lumbar segments mobile. Then you can bend each knee as if you were trying to kick yourself in the butt. This helps by shifting your weight and contracting your quads and hamstrings, and it will bring blood flow to the thighs and help offset that compression in the knees. Plus, this move won't get you too many strange looks while you’re waiting in the supermarket line.
Stand with feet hip- or shoulder-width apart and gently bend your hips and knees as if you were going to sit on a chair. This gives the lower body a good functional workout that covers the core, hips, knees, and ankle joints. And you can do it while you’re brushing your teeth.
This is an exercise you can do while cooking dinner. Gently shift your weight from one leg to the other and back again in a side to side fashion to keep the hips moving without risking injury. When standing at the stove, you don't want to do anything so challenging that it could compromise your safety around any hot liquids you’re working with, or the meal, so gentle shifting in this way should work well.
Benefits of Doing Simple Exercises
Wu says there are a lot of benefits to sneaking in even a few minutes of exercise here and there. “Movement in the joint moves the fluid, which nourishes the bone ends and reduces the perception of pain and stiffness. It also gets the muscles around the joint working a little more than they otherwise would in your typical daily routine, which helps maintain muscle strength and flexibility.”
Each of these exercises, she says, can be done in sets and repetitions. For instance, three sets of 10 repetitions for the seated knee extensions. Or, if you only have a few seconds, they can just be done once whenever you have the time. Wu says even single attempts can help “to wake up the joints from the stationary position, which can cause compression and fluid stagnation, which equals stiffness and possibly pain.”
The biggest goal is to keep moving, whenever and wherever you get the chance, and to do it safely and comfortably.