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Bone Strength: Joint-Friendly Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis (Part 2)

Dr. Shakaib Qureshi

3 min read

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Rheumatoid arthritis may progressively affect joint mobility, but it does not necessarily have to be life-altering or limiting in any way. In most cases, a healthy diet and specialized exercise plan can help slow the condition’s progression. While we have learned of low-resistance endurance and balance exercises in the previous article, here we will talk about some more joint friendly exercises to further improve joint and muscle strength and flexibility.  

Isometric Exercises

While Isotonic exercises where muscles work against resistance, such as weightlifting, are highly recommended for combating RA-induced muscle weakening, for those with swollen joints or who are at later stages of the condition, Isometric exercises, that work by relaxing and tensing muscles without any heavy exercise equipment, are an effective alternative for increasing strength and flexibility in specific muscle areas. Let’s first discuss a few tips for doing isometric exercises. 

Somethings To Remember
  • Breathe properly: This is important. During isometric exercises, you are expected to hold your breath for long periods of time. However, that can cause you to lose your breath. Therefore, try and practice proper breathing form. 
  • Adhere to procedure: The procedure of doing an exercise, or the form, is most important to maintain in order to maximise results and minimise the risk of injury. The form is mostly important when you are weightlifting, however, it is also important in isometric exercises. Try adhering to form in order to unlock some better strength gains.
  • Squeeze hard; Isometric exercises do not involve a lot of endurance inducing movements. Hence, you have to focus on squeezing your muscles in whatever position you are. If you are doing a plank, for example, try to focus on your core muscles and squeeze them as much as you can for better gains. Of course if this causes extreme discomfort or pain then you should contact the best orthopedic surgeon in Karachi immediately for professional help before you continue.

With these covered, let’s now go over the various exercises. 

1- Chest Press

Raise your arms horizontally at chest level, press your palms together as hard as possible, hold, and then rest for 5 seconds. Do 5 repetitions while slowly building up to 10-15 second repetitions at a time.

2- Shoulder Extension

While standing straight with your back against the wall, arms at your sides, and elbows straightened, push your arms back towards the wall in a backward shoulder-roll motion, hold for 5 seconds, rest, and repeat 10 times.

3- Thigh Exercise

While sitting on a flat surface with one leg straight and the other bent, tighten the thigh muscles of your straight leg for 6 seconds, relax, straighten the other leg and repeat; with a gradual increase from 5 to 15 repetitions twice a day.

4- Abdominal Contractions

While lying on your back with your hands resting on your stomach, lift your head by squeezing your head, neck, and stomach muscles, hold for 5 seconds, lower your head, and repeat; gradually increasing from 5 to 15 repetitions.


While isometric joint friendly exercises provide the added benefit of increased flexibility, specialized stretches can further increase the range of motion and flexibility, and reduce stiffness for the following most widely affected small and larger joints:

1- Finger Stretch

Open and extend your fingers as straight as you can after making a fist, rest, and repeat the exercise twice a day with a gradual increase from 5-20 repetitions. For an added challenge, squeeze a tennis ball-sized foam or sponge ball, release, and extend your fingers.

2- Wrist Exercise

Sit on a table, and while resting your left forearm on the surface and left hand hanging over the edge, grab the fingers of your left hand with your right, bend it at the wrist, and move it up and down as far as possible without pain. Rest and repeat with the opposite side, gradually increasing from 5-20 times twice a day. Although this exercise may cause more harm than good if you are already suffering from wrist pain, so contact the best orthopedic surgeon in Karachi before you start dong it regularly.

3- Hip Rotation

Sit or lie down with your feet slightly apart and legs and knees straightened, turn your knees inward facing each other, touch your toes together and hold for 5 seconds. Then turn your knees out and hold again for 5 seconds. Repeat twice a day for 5-20 repetitions at a time.

4- Leg Stretch

With knees slightly bent, lean forward as far as comfortably possible in order to reach your toes while standing, hold for 10-20 seconds, rest, and repeat twice a day for 5-10 repetitions at a time.

5- Foot Flex

Lean forward with your heels firmly planted on the floor while facing a wall with your palms placed flat over it, making sure to keep one foot in front of the other. Hold for 30 seconds, do 3 repetitions, and repeat with the other foot.

Remember to do a light 3-5 minute aerobic warm-up before each session. If you have osteoporosis, avoid bending forward with your back curved so as to reduce the risk of fractures.

While these are safe and joint-friendly exercises, switch to alternate ones with a professional trainer or upon your doctor’s advice if any of the above exercises cause joint pain. If needed, you can book an appointment with a top Physiotherapist or Orthopedic Specialist in Islamabad, Karachi and Rawalpindi through oladoc.com, , or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your musculoskeletal concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Shakaib Qureshi - Author Dr. Shakaib Sajid Qureshi is a Rheumatologist practicing in Lahore. He is M.D (USA), Fellow American College of Rheumatology, American Board Certified In Rheumatology, American Board Certification in Internal Medicine, MBBS and has 24 years of experience.
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