How to Prevent Stiff Joints

Overexertion can result in painful, stiff joints.
Overexertion can result in painful, stiff joints. (Image: Jogging Pause image by Susann Weiss from

Joint pain can be caused by various medical conditions, such as arthritis, an infection or gout. But, according to Rush University Medical Center, your joints can also become stiff following overexertion or overuse. To continue exercising without pain, you can take measures to prevent or remedy joint stiffness related to overdoing it. Some discomfort after exercising is normal due to muscle fatigue or pushing your limits, finds Johns Hopkins Medicine, but painful, swollen joints should never be considered an acceptable form of discomfort caused by exercise.

Exercise and Joint Pain

Some forms of exercise cause more stress than others on the cartilage that buffers the ends of your bones. This cartilage is important because it allows your bones to move smoothly against one another instead of grinding. Although it's normal for your cartilage and joints to endure some wear and tear during the aging process, high-impact exercise can accelerate the wear and tear, leading to joint stiffness and pain. Jogging, running and aerobic exercises that involve jumping are types of high-impact exercise. Joint pain can also occur if you're overweight or otherwise not in the best physical condition and have overdone it with your workout.

Pre- and Post-Workout Prevention

Beginning a workout without warming up first can result in preventable injuries. Spend five to 10 minutes walking before you exercise to make sure your muscles are warmed up and your joints are loose. Exercises that involve stretching and promoting joint health, such as yoga or tai chi, can help you prevent joint stiffness by maintaining your range of motion. End your workouts with a gentle stretching session; five to 10 minutes of yoga or tai chi can help you prevent joint stiffness.

Alternative Forms of Exercise

If the form of exercise you do regularly causes joint stiffness, you can prevent this from occurring by alternating the types of exercise you engage in. Supplement your jogs or brisk walking sessions with water aerobics or swimming laps. When you exercise in the water your body weight is buoyed by the water, which relieves stress on your joints. You can also try a recumbent bike to relieve pressure in the lower back and pelvic areas. A physician or physical therapist can help you form an effective exercise plan that prevents joint damage and stiffness.

Strengthen Muscles to Support Joints

According to the Harvard Medical School, strengthening the muscles that surround a particular joint can help provide effective support that prevents stiffness and injury. When the muscles are stronger, they take on some of the joints' responsibilities. The Arthritis Foundation finds that stronger muscles also prevent stress on the joints by acting as shock absorbers. Do your strengthening exercises every other day following a warm-up session.

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