NEWNAN, Ga. - Many of us wake up every morning stiff and in pain because of osteoarthritis. And one study after another has shown that exercise, especially low-impact workouts, can help joint pain. The best types of exercise are either walking or water-based workouts like swimming or water aerobics.
As the lead physical therapist at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Newnan, Maurice Warthen sees a lot of people with joint pain.
He says, "I see it a lot in the hands and fingers. Backs definitely, low backs. Sometimes in the cervical, the neck. A lot in the knees and hips."
If you hurt, you probably don't feel like exercising. But Warthen says low-impact exercise like walking, swimming and cycling is a great way to reduce arthritis pain and build up your range of motion. With a coworker, he showed us some simple stretches than can loosen up tight muscles, starting our fingers and hands.
They're really basic. Slowly opening and closing your fingers. Touching your thumb to each finger, like you're making the "okay" sign. Rotating your wrist back and forth. Warthen says the key is to move slowly, hold the stretch, and then repeat.
He says, "You're just doing gentle stretches to get the muscles and ligaments and tendons around the joints loose."
You don't want to bounce, which some people do when they stretch. Warthen says that will just tighten up your muscles.
He says, "You're not going to get any kind of benefit from bouncing. You just want to hold it to give the muscles time to lengthen and stretch out."
For lower back pain and tightness, Warthen says lie on your back and bring one knee up to your chest. Pull the knee towards you and then hold it for about 15-30 seconds. Lower that leg and bend the other towards your chest. Pull it towards you, hold the stretch and repeat.
Then, for a side stretch to loosen up the lower back, bring both knees up to your chest, extending your arms out to sides for balance. Bend your knees to one side of your body and hold the stretch. Then bend towards the other side and hold.
Warthen says learning just a few basic moves -- can help you push beyond joint pain -- one stretch at a time.
If you'd like to know more about how to stretch out tight joints, the Arthritis Foundation has some instructional videos on its website. Visit arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/videos/stretches