Home exercises that relieve joint pain

Last modified: December 11, 2019

Osteoarthritis is a disease which is characterized by pain in the joints, mainly when they are under strain or during movement. Pain may also occur at rest and at night, but only when the disease is well advanced. Diminished mobility and temporary stiffness, mainly in the morning or after resting, are also common symptoms. Light everyday home exercises in the form of customized training is the best treatment for osteoarthritis.

What is the best treatment for osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis causes joint changes which are colloquially known as degeneration of the joints. However, this degeneration is the result of negative load and not from overwork. Therefore, resting is not particularly helpful in the treatment of osteoarthritis: on the contrary, movement is the best thing for the joints. To strengthen the cartilage and the muscles surrounding the joints, regular, instructor-led training helps.

There are several studies to show that training can lead to reduced pain for people with osteoarthritis. It is especially effective if it is combined with education about the disease and weight loss if you are overweight. However, the main purpose of training is not to lose weight but to strengthen your body. Stronger muscles can help to reduce the load on the joints, at the same time it stimulates the cartilage to repair itself. Therefore, to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, training and physical activity are important elements in the everyday life of those with the disease. 

Customized training to alleviate osteoarthritis

Since there is no preparation available to slow down osteoarthritis, training is the best way of treating osteoarthritis that we know today. The most important thing is to adapt the training based on your own circumstances and how much it hurts when you use the joint. Home-based exercises for osteoarthritis may be a perfect option for many sufferers. Going for walks, for example with sticks, bike rides and simple strength training are also gentle forms of fitness that most people can manage.

When you do strength training it is a good idea to start with a low load (weight) and to do many repetitions. It might hurt initially and feel uncomfortable, but osteoarthritis exercises are not dangerous. Within as little as 2-3 months, most people notice a significant difference in pain relief. To reduce the pain that comes with osteoarthritis, anti-inflammatory pain-relieving tablets can be used. These can complement training and make it easier to perform.

Aids to reduce joint pain

Different joint diseases produce different symptoms, but the common factor is a varying degree of pain. The best way to reduce osteoarthritis pain will vary to some extent depending on which joint is affected. For example, an elastic bandage for your ankle, wrist, knee or thumb may offer relief. It may provide comfort to lay a warming wheat cushion on your shoulders and neck. Aids in the form of shoe inserts can be used to relieve your hip, knee or foot. Massaging stiff muscles and aching joints regularly may also provide relief.

Medicine as treatment for osteoarthritis

It is possible to say that there are various steps in the treatment of osteoarthritis. The first and most important step is information. Reading up on the disease can provide great insight and motivation. When the diagnosis has been made, the next step in the treatment is training, including home-based exercises for osteoarthritis. Instructor-led training helps most people who suffer from osteoarthritis. After several months, many people feel that the worst pain and stiffness has reduced.

If necessary, this may be complemented with pain relieving medicine. Pain relieving and anti-inflammatory medicine, which primarily contains paracetamol, is usually used for osteoarthritis. Cortisone injections, i.e. local anti-inflammatory medication, can also relieve pain.

Here is more information about why training is recommended as treatment.

Surgery – a last resort

In some cases surgery may be necessary even if it is seen as a last resort. Whether this is carried out depends on how pronounced the osteoarthritis changes are and if the patient has not responded to the basic treatment (which consists of customized physical activity and pain-relieving medicine). The standard operation for osteoarthritis of the hip and knee joint is to replace the joint altered by osteoarthritis for an artificial joint in the form of a prosthesis. There are different types of prosthesis and the one used is selected to match the age of the patient and activity requirements. If the patient is young and the osteoarthritis is limited, in some cases the joint can be angled. This operation is called osteotomy and may postpone the need for a prosthesis operation a few years.

Continue reading: exercises at home or visiting a physical therapist – what is better?