Exercise can be beneficial if you have joint pain. However, it’s also important that you stretch before you exercise, whether you have joint pain or not.
Stretching has many benefits for people with joint pain. It increases blood flow and lubricates the joints, decreases stiffness, and improves range of motion.
Most people only do static stretches before a workout—the “stretch and hold” technique. This technique is helpful for maintaining flexibility, but it may not be enough to prepare your body for a workout. The Arthritis Foundation recommends dynamic stretching to help with your arthritis pain during a workout. Dynamic stretching incorporates movement with stretching, combining stretching with your warm-up.
These are some of the dynamic stretches you can add to your routine.
1. Side Lunges
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your feet planted, lunge from side to side. Don’t hold the stretch, as you would with a static stretch; move from side to side at an easy pace. Try for 5-10 lunges on each side. This move will help warm up your legs for activity.
2. Arm Circles
Arm circles will get your shoulders ready for activity. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart for balance, arms straight out at your sides with your palms facing down. Gently circle your arms 20 times in each direction, making the circles as wide as you are able.
3. Hip Circles
For this dynamic stretch, you’ll need to use a countertop or other sturdy object for balance. Stand on one leg while holding onto the counter. Hold your other leg out to the side, and circle it 20 times in each direction. Do the same with the other leg. If you are flexible enough, try to widen your circles.
4. Knee Lifts
To perform knee lifts, march in place, but bring your knee as high up as possible each time you lift your leg. Do this at a pace that allows you to maintain your balance. You can even hold your hands in front of you at waist height and attempt to tap your knee to your hand. You can also deepen the stretch by using your hand to pull your knee up farther.
Standing with your feet apart, reach up over your head, stretching your side. Do the same on the opposite side, then repeat. You can start small, then gradually reach further as you stretch out.
6. Halfway Moves
This may be one of the best ways to warm up and stretch your joints, because it involves the same moves that you do during your regular exercise activity. The key is to do these moves with half the power you normally would. For example, if squats are part of your exercise routine, do half-squats first. If you golf or play tennis, practice your swing at half the speed that you normally would, then gradually increase to your normal speed. This practice will start to get your blood flowing to your tissues and prepare your joints for full activity.
According to Harvard Health, these types of stretches may actually improve your workout performance. Harvard Health also has a video available, which demonstrates most of the dynamic stretches mentioned above.
Static stretching is still helpful in maintaining flexibility, but dynamic stretches are better for improving joint function during a workout.