Don't work through joint pain when exercising!
In the past few months it seems that I have had more and more patients coming to me for a new visit who have a similar story. The story is something like this:
I went to my doctor because my knee was aching. My doctor took an x-ray and told me I had a little arthritis and that I should do some physical therapy. I decided to work with my trainer instead. My trainer had me doing the stair climber and squats. My knee was hurting more and more while I was working out and also afterwards but I figured I needed to work through the pain so I kept on pushing. Each day it got a little worse. Now the pain wakes me up from sleep and I have trouble walking down the blockThe desire to “push through the pain” may be admirable, but with joint pain it does not work. It is absolutely true that joints need movement. An aching joint should not sit idly by. However, if you are exercising and the joint is hurting while you are exercising, you are probably doing the wrong exercises! Stop and talk to your doctor.
If you have been reading my blogs then you know that it is critical to stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding painful joints. However, this stretching and strengthening should be done by working around the pain, not through it. This is accomplished by finding exercises that don’t make the joint hurt but still accomplish the goal of stretching and strengthening the appropriate muscles. Those exercises exist, but you have to find the right ones. If you are exercising and your joint pain is getting worse, stop and talk to your doctor. Again, these are the wrong exercises!
In my book, The Arthritis Handbook: Improve Your Health and Manage the Pain of Osteoarthritis, I explain in detail, with pictures, some basic exercises that are generally good for people with osteoarthritis. However, if you are doing those or any other exercises and your joint pain is increasing afterwards, or if your joint pain is increasing while you are exercising, then those exercises are not for you. Stop and talk to your doctor. At the end of the day, nothing replaces working one-on-one with a good physical therapist. A physical therapist can help design a program that is specific for you and give you biofeedback as you are performing your exercises in order to make sure you are doing them correctly.
I am always happy to hear that someone is committed to an exercise regime. However, if you are going to be exercising, make sure you are doing exercises that are safe and optimal for you. And remember to never start any new exercise program before checking with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to do so.
I hope you have found this blog helpful and I wish you the best of health because with good health, all things are possible.
Grant Cooper is a board certified, fellowship-trained physician who specializes in the non-operative treatment of spine, joint and muscle pain. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Osteoarthritis.