Workout Ideas for People with Chronic Joint Pain


As most of you probably know, I have lupus SLE. If you don't know what that is, basically it is an autoimmune disorder where your body mistakes healthy tissue for invader cells. This can, and often does, include your joints. For me, my knees and hips are in pain quite a lot. However, I have found that working out helps. But, there are very specific types of workouts that I do in order to help combat the pain and build up muscle. These workouts are great for people who also suffer from osteoarthritis or RA.

Remember, I am not a doctor, so if anything hurts, stop immediately. The workouts I am listing are not specifically for injury rehab, so if you have joint pain from an injury, please consult a doctor first.

1) The elliptical/cross-trainer
This one is my favorite because it burns a lot of calories without what feels like a ton of effort. This one is also great for me because the fluid motion means that it isn't too hard on my knees or hips like running or climbing stairs. When I go to the gym, I usually set a calorie goal of about 150 and then take it from there. That takes about 20 minutes for me, but I'm sure it will vary depending on your level of fitness, weight, etc. In addition to strengthening your hips and knees and getting your cardio in, it helps shape your bum, thighs and calves.

2) Bike riding
Riding your bike gives you a great workout while helping strengthen your knees and ankles. It has the bonus of getting you outdoors...or you can choose to do it inside the gym. It's relatively low-impact, so you usually won't be panting afterward.

3) Yoga/Pilates
Yoga and Pilates, especially the gentle stretch sort, is a wonderful way to get physical again after a flare. It is also an excellent way to de-stress, unwind and stretch and strengthen your muscles.

4) Swimming and Water Aerobics
Not a fan of sweating or looking for a way to cool off after your workout? Swimming laps (or with the aid of a kickboard) helps you burn calories and strengthen your body without breaking a sweat. Join an aqua aerobics class for an extra challenge!

Workouts to Avoid

Although it is entirely up to you and how you feel in your own body, I would recommend avoiding anything that puts unnecessary stress on your most affected joints. For example, if your knees are a constant source of pain, running bangs your knees onto the ground or treadmill and can make you feel worse, not better. If your shoulders are painful, freeweights are probably not a great idea.

Tips to Make Working Out Easier

Knowing when to workout and when to leave it can be tricky for people in chronic pain. If you're feeling "good pain," push through, but if the pain becomes intense or turns into "bad pain," then stop your workout. Likewise, if you're exhausted from your illness, it will likely serve you better to go home and rest than try and pound it out at the gym.

For those who suffer with chronic pain, take a pain reliever or anti-inflammatory 30-minutes to an hour before you work out. This should help ease the pain.

Although it sounds pretty obvious, I will remind you to keep a water bottle near you at all times and keep hydrated throughout your workout!



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3 comments

  1. I have issues with my knees and the elliptical has made all the difference! Great tips.

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  2. Hi I have RA and Lupus (I wrote to you a few weeks ago) thought this was well said, its important fo people to not push it to much but at the same time we shouldn't be scared to exercise. Ive found walking doing yoga and pilates classes helps my joints and overall strength it also helps me to relax and im no too hard on myself when thats all I can manage. I think learning what helps you and what makes you worse goes along with adjusting to living with a chronic illness and this post helps people to recognise that. Thanks El x

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  3. Hi, my name. Is Julie, I'm enjoying your blog. I, too, have Lupus and ankylosing spondylitis which really wreaks havoc on my joints. I only recently decided that I absolutely must exercise or I'm going to deteriorate to nothing and end up in a wheelchair. I'm finding it hard to find just the right exercise and even harder to recognize the right pain signals. When am I being a wimp and when do I truly need to stop, it's hard to know. Thanks for your entry.

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