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Stretching and Strengthening Exercises for Arthritis

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises for Arthritis


Arthritis doesn't have to stiffen you up and hamper your movement. Range-of-motion exercises and strengthening exercises can help you maintain or restore flexibility and take unnecessary stress off your joints.


Before you try the exercises suggested here, make sure you warm up first—the easiest way is to take a hot shower, but you can also gradually limber up over five minutes or so by walking in place. All three exercises should be done daily—make them part of your morning routine. (Don't worry, they're not sweat-inducing, so you won't have to take another shower.)


Caution: Strengthening exercises shouldn't be done during flare-ups but you can continue to do your range-of-motion exercises.




Like all range-of-motion exercises, the shoulder stretch involves moving a joint as far as possible without causing intense pain. While you might be really stiff at first, the more you do this exercise, the looser you'll get. You should move the shoulder muscle and joint to a point that is just mildly uncomfortable. This routine stretches the shoulder muscle, relieves stiffness, restores flexibility, and encourages joint movement.

  1. Reach your right palm over your right shoulder and place the back of your left hand on your lower back. (See illustration A.)
  2. Slide your hands toward each other, trying to touch your fingertips (though most people can't reach that far). Make sure you don't stretch to the point of pain—slight discomfort is OK.
  3. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.
  4. Reverse your hands and repeat the exercise.


This exercise strengthens the quadriceps—the large muscles at the front of the thigh—which are often weak in people with arthritis of the knee. Indeed, some evidence has even shown that weak quads may contribute to the development of arthritis of the knee.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you, with a small pillow beneath your knees. (See illustration B.) If you feel you need back support, sit next to a wall. You can also sit on a hard bed to do the exercise.
  2. Tense one thigh so that your knee straightens out. Hold for 10 seconds.
  3. Do the same with your other thigh.
  4. Repeat as often as is comfortable, ideally eight to 12 times.


Strengthening muscles provides greater structural support for the joints and thereby lessens the load on them. This exercise strengthens the muscles around the shoulders, the elbows, and the wrists. To do the exercise, you'll need an elastic exercise band, available in sporting goods stores or on-line.

  1. Hold one end of an elastic band in your fist, palm up, with the other end securely held under your foot.
  2. Date Published: 02/08/2006
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