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Weightlifting with inflamed joints?

I've been having transient problems with my elbows and range-of-motion. Sometimes I can't contract an arm fully, and sometimes extending an arm is very painful.

For some reason I don't understand, doing traditional weightlifting/bodybuilding exercises helps enormously. Even just standing up and holding dumbbells at my sides allows me to extend my arms to 180 degrees with only moderate pain and it feels very satisfying.

Recently I talked with a physical therapist and he said this was the worst possible thing I could do for inflamed joints, and that I'm overstretching and damaging them.

So now I'm not sure what to do think. It seems that most web sites say that weightlifting is good for inflammatory arthritis. Does anybody here have insight into this? Thank you in advance!

  1. I think it is advisable to speak to your doctor. A PT is almost always a terrific resource, but before I would follow the advice of a PT or other professional I always consult my doctor to make sure I am talking to the right person about the right things.

    1. Hi . I want to second . In general, strength training can be good for those with inflammatory arthritis. That said, it often needs to be avoided with actively inflamed joints. Each case is different and it is important to get a doctor and a PT on the same page for a more personalized exercise regimen. Your doctor or possibly an orthopedist specializing in elbows may be able to examine and tell you what specifically is going on with this joint. Wishing you the best. Richard ( Team)

      1. The new doctor I will be seeing next week is a rheumatologist, yes. With my health insurance, I have been waiting for this appointment for a couple months now.

      2. That's great (definitely not the wait, but that you are seeing a rheumatologist). I want to share with you this article from our contributor Tamara on what you can expect from your first visit with a rheumatologist: and this one from our editorial team on the diagnostic process: Best, Richard ( Team)

    2. Hi, I have RA unfortunately. when I started my Rheumatologist told me not to workout! I was a competitive bodybuilder at the time! started Prednisone which ruined me after we got the right mix of meds I worked my way off prednisone and started to workout again. I am 69 yrs old and have been working out since I was 40 yrs old. It is actually good for your joints but you do have to be careful when inflamed. I still get people looking at me in the gym they can't figure out my age and I have legs to die for.
      Do what works for you but start out slow and always use the weights that you can control.
      Happy training

      1. Thank you! To follow up, I saw my rheumatologist for the first time. She said that a small amount of inflammation in the elbow can limit its range of motion as I described, and that movement is necessary to eliminate this sort of local inflammation. So she absolutely approved of weightlifting as a treatment, along with anything else that gets the elbow moving. It's great to have some confidence that I'm not destroying my joints! Thanks to everybody for all the replies here, I really appreciate it.

      2. Hi . I am glad your rheumatologist supports your exercise routine. That explanation makes perfect sense. Warmest of wishes. - Lori (Team Member)

    3. Hi ,
      While I am not a professional bodybuilder like , I have similar experience with weight training.
      When I was diagnosed with 18 (I am now 39), my doctors told me the only things I could do was walk and swim (I did martial arts and a host of other sports at the time).
      I didn't quite listen to them, because when I went to physiotherapy, the therapist made me do weight exercises. Since then I worked out a pretty good regime, a mix of workouts in the mornings, it so loosens the joints, a walk at lunchtime, and a long stretch routine at the end of the day. I haven't been in pain for three years when I properly started this routine, despite my arthritis being very aggressive (replaced right wrist as a reminder of its aggression).
      I lived in three countries and saw around 5 different rheumatologists and other kinds of doctors. Only one ever mentioned 'moving therapy'. I feel it is a totally neglected aspect for rheumatologists and I don't know why they neglect the positive effects from moving the body.

      I'd say, do what feels good and what your joints can handle. You know best when you think you have gone too far. With regular exercise, you will hopefully feel better after about a month or so. It also gives you a much-needed energy boost, since we seem to have so little of that.

      1. How awesome, ! My mother had mild RA and was a big believer in exercising throughout the day. I am so glad this routine helped and I hope your story encourages others to give it a try. Wishing you the very best. - Lori (Team Member)

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