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Rheumatoid Arthritis: Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

By Debra Rodzinak

For those with stiff and painful joints, like those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), exercise can help loosen up those stiff joints and bring relief.  Some exercises are better than others for those who suffer with RA.


Exercises that are low-impact, like walking or elliptical machines, don’t stress joints like basketball or running.

Strength Training

Resistance exercises done every other day lead to stronger muscles which support the joints.  Elastic bands and free weights are very good for building resistance.


If strength training makes the joints hurt, try tensing the muscles and relaxing them.  This type of exercise can be done anytime, anywhere.


Water is the best low impact media to protect the joints from impact while providing resistance.  Slowly build up to swimming for 30 minutes at a time.


Warm up with light exercises before stretching to warm-up the muscles.  When stretching, hold the position for 30 seconds and don’t bounce or overstretch.  After stretching, apply moist heat or take a warm bath to ease any pain or stiffness.  Some stretching exercises include:

  • Fingers – Make a fist.  Then, open and stretch the fingers straight out.  Repeat up to 20 times.  Squeeze a soft ball to add resistance.
  • Wrists -  Sit in front of a flat surface.  Place one forearm on the surface with the hand hanging over the edge.  Grab the fingers of the hand and bend it slowly up and down 20 times.  Repeat with the other hand.
  • Elbows – Stretch one arm out in front of the body, parallel to the floor and palm toward the ceiling.  Grab the fingers and gently pull them toward the floor, stretching the wrist.  Hold this position for 30 seconds.  Flip the palm over facing the floor and repeat the exercise.  Repeat with opposite arm.
  • Hips – Sitting on the floor or bed, stretch legs out and turn the knees and toes toward each other.  Hold this position for a few seconds before turning the knees and toes outward.  Repeat and gradually increase the amount of time the position is held.
  • Feet – Stand facing a wall with palms flat, one foot forward, the other back.  Keep the heels of the feet on the floor and lean forward, then back.  This stretches the calves and Achilles tendons.  Reverse the foot position and repeat.

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic.

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