Breaking the cycle of arthritis pain and immobility

For arthritis pain sufferers improper exercise leads to more pain, more joint inflammation, and restricted mobility.   However, the right exercises with the right equipment can produce totally unexpected results.

In 2012, I had injections for arthritic shoulder pain. At the time, the doctor proposed the idea of getting shots every few months. Although he told me, "It's no big deal," I made it my mission to avoid those shots.  I avoided the injections for five years.

Unfortunately, I had a serious fall resulting in injuries to my shoulders and arms. The x-rays indicated that nothing was broken; just inflamed arthritic joints. Injections in my shoulder and arm gave me no relief.  My mobility was becoming increasingly restricted. 

After four weeks of no improvement in my condition, I decided to exercise. My trainer restricted my movements to a relatively pain-free range of motion, certain movements were eliminated, but overall we proceeded as normal. My expected outcomes were either:

· the pain would be no worse, and that would be a victory.

· the pain would be worse and would cause me to plot another path to recovery.

After the workout, I was breathing hard for several minutes. It was an exhilarating feeling after the weeks of idleness. Four hours after the workout, my blood pressure (BP) was 102/63. I've been on high blood pressure medication for 36 years. Those are extraordinarily low numbers for me.

The breathing and the BP numbers are indicative that the workout had produced a systemic effect beyond just tired muscles. A systemic effect produces a hormonal response including pain-mediating endorphins and anti-inflammatory myokines.  I slept well and woke up refreshed – no tossing and turning to find a position where I was not in pain.

I was amazed to find I could lift my arm over my head – not possible before the workout. Pain associated with arthritis can lead to immobility and weakness. This leads to more pain – rinse and repeat.

At Austin strength trainers and New Orleans strength trainers we work with pain sufferers to reverse that cycle. We have an extensive line of MedX equipment with medical rehab features that are gentler on the joints.  This allows us to safely work the body to a deep fatigue.  For arthritis pain sufferers this leads to stronger muscles, increased mobility, and protection of the joints that facilitates a life un-compromised by pain.


The effect of progressive resistance training in rheumatoid arthritis

With our medical rehab equipment and a specialized protocol we are able to work with those who are physically compromised. Some of those we have worked with are those with strokes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, lupus, hip, knee, and shoulder replacements, and rheumatoid arthritis. We have worked with dozens of people in their eighties and have worked with those as old as 95 years old. I point this out because people shy away from strength training because it's thought to be stressful and can cause injury. True, but if you have people who know what they are doing the opposite will happen. Case in point, see below:

In this study, The effect of progressive resistance training in rheumatoid arthritis. Increased strength without changes in energy balance or body composition. Researchers had eight young and eight elderly subjects with rheumatoid arthritis who were otherwise healthy undergo 12 weeks of high-intensity progressive resistance training.

Subjects with rheumatoid arthritis had significant reductions in self-reported fatigue score, pain score, improved 50-foot walking times, and improved balance and gait scores.

They conclude: “High-intensity strength training is feasible and safe in selected patients with well-controlled RA and leads to significant improvements in strength, pain, and fatigue without exacerbating disease activity or joint pain.”

Our fitness trainers at New Orleans Personal Trainers and at Austin TX Personal Training can guide you through an effective strength training program that will take less than an hour a week and achieve life-changing results.

Strength training for those with arthritis

Two excerpts from Arthritis Today/March 2006 Published by the Arthritis Foundation:

"Get the benefits of strength training sooner by taking your time. Some things are best done slowly, and weight lifting is one of them, say some fitness experts."




“More control of motion the entire movement, causes less pressure on the joints and preventing pain, "People with stiff or impaired joints who need extra protection when they exercise are the ones who benefit the most," says David Fischer, MD, a rheumatologist in Palo Alto, California. He has recommended dozens of patients do this type of resistance training.”


A person with a debilitating condition such as arthritis or and a limitation because of an injury would do well to have the muscles around those compromised joints strengthened. Often exercise to strengthen those muscles can become problematic, as many forms of exercise can exacerbate the condition. The key is to eliminate the rapid acceleration (the jerking motion) that creates forces that stress the joints and also perform exercises that do not put the joints in a compromised position - an example of joints in a compromised position and how specially designed equipment can minimize those hazardous movements.

At Kelly’s Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Personal Trainers we us MedX rehabilitative exercise equipment. This equipment is gentler on the joints and suitable for those with limitations. We are able to make fine adjustments to insure that the range of motion is limited to one that is pain-free. It is also adjustable to produce maximum resistance even for those who are much stronger– the weight stacks go up to 1000 pounds.

While not all exercise movements at our facilities are necessarily slow, special care is taken to insure that the initial acceleration of the repetitions are started smoothly (no jerking). This minimal initial acceleration reduces force that can cause injury to the joints and connective tissue. Even clients with limitations are able to increase strength safely. More strength results in more pain-free movement and a higher quality of life.