Mini Workout for Arthritis
By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
The following exercises are all done seated in a chair. Begin by getting into good posture and then exercise from head to toe. Movements should be slow, controlled and deliberate.
Sit in a straight-back chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place a pillow behind your back if your back does not touch the chair and you need the support. Be sure you are sitting on top of your “sitz bones.” You can find them by sitting on your hands and shifting your weight side to side and rocking forward and back. Sit up straight and distribute your weight evenly on both hands. Take your hands out.
SIT UP TALL by raising your sternum (breast bone). Notice how this helps your upper back to straighten, and pulls your shoulders back. Touch your chin with one hand, and glide the head back to put the neck in good alignment over your shoulders. Do not tilt the chin up or down, but keep it level as though it is moving on a set of railroad tracks. Maintain this good posture as you exercise.
TURN YOUR HEAD to the right, looking back with your eyes as far as you can. Stay within your comfort range. Hold for several seconds. Return to center, and then turn to the left. Repeat 3-4 times. Bend the neck to the right side (ear moves toward shoulder). Hold, return to upright position, then repeat to the left. Perform 3-4 repetitions to each side. Preserves neck motion.
ROLL RIGHT SHOULDER forward-up-back-down 4 times. Repeat with the left shoulder then both shoulders at the same time. This exercise loosens tight muscles in the shoulder girdle.
PLACE THE LEFT HAND ON THE RIGHT THIGH to help maintain good posture and lean slightly to the right. Allow the right arm to dangle to the side, keeping it totally relaxed. Start the arm moving in a circle from the shoulder like a pendulum. Count to 8 and then reverse the circle. Repeat the exercise with the left shoulder and arm. This exercise warms up the shoulder muscles.
PRETEND YOU ARE HOLDING A TRAY in front of you at waist level with palms up. Elbows should be lightly touching the sides of your body. Now pull right elbow back, then left elbow, squeeze both shoulder blades together and then release. Repeat 4 times. This exercise strengthens postural muscles.
POSITIONED AS ABOVE, turn your palms down then up 4 times.
With palms down, bend your wrists up 4 times. With palms up, bend your wrists up 4 times. Keeping elbows at your sides, touch palms to shoulders, then straighten your elbows completely. Repeat 4 times. This exercise enhances wrist and elbow flexibility.
MAKE A SOFT FIST with your right hand. You may gently assist with your left hand as needed Stay within your comfort range. Hold your hand closed for a few seconds. Then slowly open your fingers completely like a flower that is blooming. Repeat 4 times with each hand. Keeps finger joints mobile.
PALM UP, HAND OPEN, touch your thumb to the tip of the little finger 4 times, gently stretching the hand open completely between each touch. Repeat touching the thumb to the middle of the little finger, and the base of the little finger. This exercise strengthens the thumb and hand and maintains thumb mobility.
PLACE BOTH HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD. Stretch your elbows back as you take a deep breath. Exhale, allowing your elbows to come slightly forward and relax. Inhale, and stretch your elbows back again. Now as you exhale, reach up overhead with the right hand then the left, straightening both elbows. Lower your arms out to the side and down. This exercise expands the chest, strengthens postural muscles and improves shoulder flexibility.
REACH UP WITH RIGHT ARM, reach down with left arm and stretch 2 times in both directions reaching with your fingertips. Repeat exercises with left arm up and right arm down. This exercise stabilizes the spine and improves shoulder mobility.
HOOK THE RIGHT ARM over the back of the right side of the chair and reach across the body with the left arm, rotating your spine. With the arms in this position, look right as far back as the eyes will go. Look forward. Look left. Repeat the exercise on the left side. This exercise promotes neck and spine flexibility.
LIFT ONE KNEE toward the chest, using your arms. (Avoid this exercise if you’ve had a hip replacement). Relax, and repeat 4 times. The last time, hold the knee up while you circle the ankle 8 times in one direction and then 8 times in the other. Repeat with the other knee. This exercise stretches the lower back, promotes ankle mobility.
LIFT THE RIGHT FOOT up 4 – 6 inches from the floor. Move it out to the side and put it down. Lift, and bring back to center. Repeat 4 times on each side (The foot should remain under the knee throughout the exercise). This exercises increases hip mobility and strengthens abdominal muscles.
EXTEND ONE LEG out in front of you. Straighten the knee as much as you can, tightening the muscle on top of the thigh (quadriceps muscle). Hold for a count of 5, then release, and bend the knee, touching the toe on the floor underneath your chair. Repeat entire sequence up to 4 times on each leg. This exercise increases knee mobility, stabilizes the knee joint and strengthens the quads (muscles in the thigh area needed to get up and down in a chair or on and off the toilet).
WITH KNEE STRAIGHT, pull the toes toward you and feel the calf muscle stretch. Move the foot side to side 4 times like a windshield wiper. Point the toe away from you and pull it back toward you twice. Relax. Repeat on the other side. This exercise improves ankle range of motion.
TAP THE TOES of both feet 8 times, keeping the heels on the floor. Raise the toes as high as you can each time. Now lift toes and hold for a count of 5. Repeat 4 times. This exercise strengthens shin muscles and helps to prevent tripping.
DEEP BREATH–FINISH. With palms together in front of your chest (praying hands position), inhale as you stretch your arms upward overhead. Turn palms out, exhale as you lower arms to your sides. Breathe in again as you raise your arms up slowly in front to just above shoulder height. Exhale as you bring your arms down. Push back, squeezing your shoulder blades together, push palms down toward the floor, then relax!