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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
OxPARC

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Muscle strengthening

Muscles keep your joints moving properly and protect them from injury, especially when you are active (for example, playing with friends or doing sport).

If your joints are or have been swollen, they will need extra help from their surrounding muscles to keep them protected.

How to keep your muscles strong

  • It is important to concentrate on the specific muscles which support the joints that have been sore. We can give you individual exercises for these muscles. Some examples are below.
  • You should aim to do each exercise 10 times and your muscles should feel tired but not painful after doing them:
    • If the muscles aren't tired then a small weight or exercise band could be added.
    • If you can't manage 10, do what you can and remember to talk about it with us.
    • Remember, strengthening isn't about lifting the heaviest weight possible. It is about skill and control.
  • Try to do your exercises five times a week if you want to get stronger, or three times if you want to keep up your strength.
  • Carrying on with your exercises during times when your arthritis is active is very important. Ask us about the best exercises to do If you have hot, swollen joints or a history of neck arthritis.
  • Other activities which make you feel warm and out of breath will also strengthen your body as well as improving your fitness. But we may ask you to strengthen particular joints before going back to your other activities. This is to make sure your joints are protected and strong.

Exercises

Muscles at the back of your hips (your gluts)

  1. Lie on your tummy
  2. Slowly kick alternate legs (as if swimming)
  3. Keep your hips flat all the time

Tip: Make it harder by holding each leg up for 3 seconds.

Muscles at the side of your hips (your abductors)

  1. Lie on your side
  2. Lift your top leg as high as you can, taking it slightly out behind you
  3. Don't roll forwards or backwards and try to keep your hips stacked on top of each other

Muscles at the front of your knee (your quads)

  1. Place a rolled towel or soft toy under your knee
  2. Use your knee muscles to push your thigh down into the towel/ toy, (your heel should lift up).

Tip: Hold for 3 seconds to make it more difficult.

Ankles

  1. Stand with your heels over the edge of a step
  2. Rise up on your tiptoes as high as possible (you might need to use your hands to balance at first, but try to use them less each time)

Further information

Muscle strengthening information sheet (pdf; 153 KB)