Exercise activities that are good for your joints
Published Monday, June 22, 2015 7:42AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 22, 2015 10:03AM EDT
Whether from a sport, a fall or the repetitive strains of everyday, injuries are never fun and can make a huge impact on your ability to function and enjoy life.
Very often it can help to keep your joints and muscles moving to maintain mobility and strength.
If you have a specific injury, however, seek out medical advice to get a specific diagnosis. Exercise can be great, but you also want to ensure you are not aggravating an injury with the best of intentions.
The following outline just some of the common injuries along with some exercises you can easily do at home with little to no weight. Choose sets, reps and weights that feel comfortable and challenging with no pain.
There are two main issues when it comes to the wrist. Acute injuries are from falls that happen on an outstretched hand. Chronic injuries with the wrist result from repetitive strain and motions that cause inflammation of the tendons, or tendonitis.
Exercises for wrists:
1. Joint moves
The following exercises can be done in slow and controlled movements or held as stretches for 20-30 seconds.
- flex and extend your fingers - making a fist and then opening up wide
- flex and extend your hand - fingers point under and up
- pronation and supination - rotating the hand down and up
- deviation - shifting the hand inside and outside
2. Wrist curls - regular and reverse
In a seated position with your forearms on your thighs with palms facing upward, flex your wrist up and down using a light dumbbell. Gradually increase weight
Reverse curls - repeat the exercise with palms facing downward
3. Wrist rolls
Wrist rolls are commonly done with a weight tied to a wooden dowel, but you can also do the same move with a towel. Roll up and down. Gradually increase weight.
4. Finger curls
Seated with the forearm resting on the thigh, hold a light dumbbell in your hand. Allow the weight to roll down your fingers and then curl fingers back
Preventing wrist injuries:
- balance - both your workouts and daily stresses like carrying purses, briefcases or doing repetitive activities
take breaks - just 2-3 minutes every hour can dramatically reduce your risk of repetitive strain injuries
Shoulder issues and injuries
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint with gives it great range of motion but also opens it up to a lot of issues because of that range and instability. One common injury is to the rotator cuff which is a set of four muscles that sit around the ball of the shoulder joint. Repetitive movements can overload the tendons of the rotator cuff and cause inflammation or tendonitis. If ignored, this tendon can eventually tear.
The AC (acromioclavicular) joint is also a common injury site from either falling on an outstretched hand or getting hit. When the ligaments connecting the acromion and collarbone get torn, the shoulder gets separated.
Exercises for shoulder issues:
1. Wall moves
With your back against a wall , extend your arms up and out to the sides like goal posts. Keeping your head, back, hands and elbows making contact, slide the arms up and down the wall.
2. Rotator cuff exercises
Using a band or light dumbbell, start with the hand inside the body and then turn out and in. the palm can be facing in or up to execute at different angles.
A second exercise for the rotator cuff is holding the hand to the side of the body with the palm facing back and elbow bent. Rotate the hand up and down slow and controlled.
3. Scapular retraction and rows
Scapular squeezes simply involve squeezing the shoulder blades back and in - seated or standing.
Rows can be done seated on a machine or bentover using bands or dumbbells but again, involve squeezing the shoulder blades with activate the rhomboids.
4. Lateral raises
Lateral raises are great exercises that can be done using a band or light weight from various angles to strengthen all around the shoulder joint. For balance, include front, back and diagonal patterns - front raise, side raise, rear delts
Preventing shoulder injuries:
- work muscles in balance - very often the risk to the shoulder increases with muscle imbalances with the upper body from sport or everyday life - the chest gets tight, the upper back is weak and the rear deltoids get far less work
- work on stability and mobility - do exercises that require the muscles to work to move the body and to stabilize such as front raises and planks
flexibility - work on stretching with particular emphasis on opening the chest area
Knee injuries and issues
Your knee is the largest joint in the body and easily injured. It's made up of four main things - bones, cartilage, tendons and ligaments. Like the shoulder, many injuries happen in sport but can just as easily occur in everyday life.
Aside from fractures, some common knee issues include injuries to the anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate or collateral ligaments along with meniscal and tendon tears.
Exercises for knee issues:
1. Leg raises, extensions and abduction
Leg extensions can be tough on the knee joint, so a good option is to do lifting movements with the leg fully extended.
- Seated - extend leg out and lift up and down
- Prone - lying on the floor, raise leg up and down
- Side lying - raise the top leg to work the outer thigh; raise the bottom leg to work the inner thigh
2. Hamstring curls
These can be done with no weight or a band at home. Standing using a chair or wall for support, curl one heel up and down. Focus on the movement to active muscles.
3. Limited range squats
Sometimes the range of motion of the knee joint is limited, but you can do squats in a short range, use support or simply hold an isometric movement.
- Chair - start seated in a chair and raise up and down; start assisting with arms if you need
- Table squats - use a counter or table to hold as balance and support with a small movement back up
- Wall squats - stand with your back against a wall and slide down to a comfortable but challenging range - hold for 10 sec and gradually increase to 20-30
Bridges work the hamstrings and glutes with support the knee function and area. Lie on the ground with your knees bent and upper body relaxed. Press your feet into the floor and lift your hips up and down. Another option is to simply hold the lifted position.
Preventing knee issues:
- Balance your muscles - muscles are more effective keeping joints safe when they're balanced; we often work the quads but forget the hamstrings
- AVOID - movements that aggravate the joint including extensions, hurdle stretches and deep squats when you have injures
As always, exercise should be comfortable but challenging. Avoid the old "no pain, no gain" mentality particularly if you feel you may have an injury. If it hurts, don't do it. But if that's the case, it's likely time to seek out medical advice
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