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6 Simple Stretches to Improve Joint Health

6 Simple Stretches to Improve Joint Health

The old saying “Use it or lose it” applies to joint health as much as anything. When you don’t take a joint through a full range of mobility on a regular basis – in other words, you don’t use it to its full capabilities – you lose function in that joint.

And when you’re dealing with major joints like the hips, knees, and shoulders, as well as all the smaller (but crucial) joints along the spine, loss of function can put a serious damper on your quality of life. Activities you once took for granted – your favorite sport, an exercise class, playing with your kids or grandkids, even just taking a leisurely walk – become painful, if not impossible.

Joint pain is often caused by arthritis, and one thing you can do to relieve that pain and improve joint health is take a collagen supplement daily; choose whichever NutraCollagen product suits your goals and lifestyle.

As for joint function, regular exercise is key. However, most activities don’t take your major joints through full ranges of motion; this is why following a consistent stretching routine is so important. Improving joint mobility can pay immediate dividends for the function of your joints and quality of life.

Below are six great stretches to start with, courtesy of two exercise specialists: Chris Stulginsky, a certified Physical Therapist and Neurokinetic Therapist at Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina (@ATRPhysicalTherapy on Instagram); and Rhodie Lorenz, co-founder of Connecticut-based JoyRide Cycling + Fitness studios.

“Mobility is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle and maintaining joint health,” says Lorenz. “When you can play an active role in creating a healthier body, you also improve mental and emotional well-being.”

Do each of the stretches 3-5 times per week, whenever is convenient for you. Doing all six mobility exercises in one session will take you around 10 minutes. With this minimal time investment, you’ll start feeling and functioning better immediately!

 

1) Supine Figure 4 Piriformis Stretch

Target Joints: Hips

Setup: Begin by lying on your back with both knees bent and feet resting flat on the floor. Cross one leg over the other so the outside of your ankle is resting on your knee.

Movement: Apply a gentle pressure to your bent knee with your hand. You should feel a stretch in your glute muscles. Make sure to keep your lower back flat on the floor throughout the stretch.

Stretch Rx: Perform 3 repetitions on each side, holding the fully stretched position for around 10 seconds.

Commentary: “The hips get tight with everyday life, specifically sitting,” says Stulginsky. “We often trace knee pain, injury, and common foot problems back to a restriction at the hip.

Video Demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8d2KaC47ED0

 

 

2) Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Target Joints: Hips

Setup: Begin in a half kneeling position, with one knee bent in front of your body.

Movement: Tighten your abdominals, tilt your pelvis backward, and gently push your hips forward. You should feel a stretch in the front of your hip.

Stretch Rx: Perform 3 repetitions on each side, holding the fully stretched position for around 10 seconds.

Commentary: “Make sure to keep your hips facing forward and your back straight during the exercise,” says Stulginsky.

Video Demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnVfloe6yTo

 

 

3) Seated Hamstring Stretch

Target Joints: Knees, Lower Back

Setup: Sit at the end of a chair, keeping one leg bent and the other extended out in front of you with the foot flexed.

Movement: Slightly hinge the upper body toward the extended leg. Lean into the stretch and hold it.

Stretch Rx: Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds, performing the stretch 2-3 times per leg.

Commentary: “While holding the stretch, also lengthen your breathing with long inhales and exhales,” says Lorenz.

Video Demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u55F2jOzBVI

 

 

4) Supine Trunk Rotation

Target Joints: Lower Back, Hips

Setup: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet together flat on the floor.

Movement: Keeping your abdominals engaged, lower your knees to the floor on one side. Hold the stretch at the bottom for 5-10 seconds, then return to the setup position and repeat on the other side.

Stretch Rx: Do 5-10 reps per side.

Commentary: “As you lower your legs to the side, try to keep your opposite shoulder anchored to the ground,” says Lorenz.

Video Demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMe2wEY4Atg

 

 

5) Quadruped Thoracic Rotation

Target Joints: Lower Back

Setup: Begin on all fours, then drop your butt toward the floor so it’s as close to your heels as possible. Place one hand lightly on the back of your head or neck, with the opposite forearm resting on the floor beneath you.

Movement: Slowly rotate your trunk up and back on the same side as your up arm. Pause briefly, then return to the starting position and repeat.

Stretch Rx: Perform 3 sets of 15 slow reps per side.

Commentary: “When the thoracic spine isn’t moving the way it needs to, the lower back often takes the brunt of the force,” says Stulginsky. “Thoracic rotation is a key component of walking and running, and active people especially need to make sure they have good rotation.”

Video Demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kH6cgbhHI8

 

 

6) Corner Pec Stretch

Target Joints: Shoulders

Setup: Begin in a standing, upright position facing the corner of room. Place your forearms flat on the wall on each side of the corner, with your elbows at shoulder height.

Movement: Slowly lean forward, taking a small step if needed, until you feel a gentle stretch in the front of your shoulders. Hold this position.

Stretch Rx: Perform 3 repetitions, holding the fully stretched position for around 10 seconds.

Commentary: “The pecs often get tight from all the work people do in front of their bodies [like driving, typing, and texting],” says Stulginsky in explaining why stretching the chest muscles is so important. “This forces the rotator cuff musculature into a more vulnerable position for injury.”

Video Demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdjsqyTiHcc

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