Believe it or not, lifting weights might help reduce the pain caused by arthritis, which can help and manage joint pain.
It may sound counterintuitive, but lifting weights actually helps to lubricate, support, and protect joints by strengthening the muscle around them to increase shock absorption, improve flexibility and possibly help control swelling.
A study published in the Clinics in Geriatric Medicine reviewed eight studies that tested older adults who suffered from osteoarthritis. Researchers found a 35 percent reduction in participants’ pain and an increase of 33 percent in lower limb strength and function in those who strength trained.
Not only does weight training help with osteoarthritis, it has been shown to also help other types of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis. In another study, researchers found that participants who had rheumatoid arthritis and followed a strength training program increased their muscle strength by nearly 59 percent, as well as their ability to function physically.
Physical therapist and founder of Fit Club Physical Therapy & Sports Performance, Kellen Scantlebury, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., agrees. “When we move the joints in a range of motion, it releases fluid that lines the joints,” he said in an interview with StrongPath.com. “If you strength train, then you’ll have healthier joints.”
To get the best results, Dr. Scantlebury recommends working out with a licensed professional, especially if you’re new to exercise or are recovering from an injury, to learn proper technique and avoid injury. By doing so, he said people can, “make some serious progress, without the fear of getting hurt. If clients are performing exercises wrong, there is someone there to step in and help.”
If you are recovering from an injury, with a combination of manual therapy like soft tissue massages and exercises to target the muscles around the joints, you may start to see change in about six weeks.
Best Ways to Protect Your Joints
If you’re a beginner or haven’t strength trained for a while, it’s recommended that you not only consult with your doctor but also ease into exercise to avoid worsening joint pain. Some things to consider when exercising and lifting weights with joint pain:
- Try to avoid high impact exercises that put extra stress on your joints. Exercises that don’t require pounding the pavement are best.
- Warm-up muscles and joints with some gentle movement before starting your workout.
- Don’t rush. Movements can be done slowly to ensure proper technique if you feel pain, stop. Listen to your body.
- Use heat to relax the joints and muscles for approximately 20 minutes.
- Help reduce any swelling that might result from your workout by icing for approximately 20 minutes after.
If you haven’t already incorporated strength training into your exercise routine, it’s critical to start. Especially as people age, following a regular resistance training routine becomes crucial to protecting joints, managing joint pain and enjoying everyday activities. If you’re not sure you’re ready for it, check with your doctor before getting started.