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The Best Low-Impact Exercises for Joint Pain

Triangle Region / 12 Mar 2021

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by EmergeOrtho
The Best Low-Impact Exercises for Joint Pain

Exercise Safety When Working Out

Exercise is an integral part of our overall health throughout our lives. Despite its importance to all age groups, physical activity is admittedly a lot easier on younger muscles and joints than older ones. When performed by those who are either older or are not in peak physical condition, high-impact exercises can exacerbate pre-existing joint pain, or even cause new injuries.

However, those experiencing any form of joint pain should not be discouraged from exercising! There are many low-impact exercises that can be seamlessly incorporated into safe workout plans that support joint health.

The Orthopedic Specialists at EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region have spent years extensively studying all parts of the musculoskeletal system. Our board-certified, fellowship-trained team specialize in specific parts of the musculoskeletal system, which gives them expert insight into how to best care for specific parts of the body.

Low-Impact Exercises for Every Type of Joint Pain

Depending on the type of joint pain you are experiencing, there are specific exercises you can perform that support overall physical health but without putting tension or strain on affected joints.

Joint Pain in the Knee

One of the most common causes of pain in the knee joint (and all joints in general) is arthritis. There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, but the most common types are osteoarthritis (described as general wear-and-tear) and rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the same joint on both sides of the body).

Some great low-impact exercises for those experiencing knee joint pain include:

Swimming/Water Aerobics

The buoyancy provided by water alleviates most of the pressure your knee joints normally experience on land. Plus, the natural resistance of water encourages your body to build muscle as you swim and/or walk.


If you are able to walk without pain, walking is a great low-impact form of exercise. Walking can build leg muscle and help you lose weight, which both can help relieve knee pressure.

Not to mention that walking (and all forms of safe exercise) can help rebuild joints. The damaged cartilage acts like a sponge and gets nutrients from the compression and decompression of your body weight as you exercise.

Spinning/Bike Riding

Because most of the pressure falls on your seat, this is a great cardio form of exercise that does not put much pressure on the knees. Depending on the severity of your knee pain, be sure to avoid any inclines or rough terrains that could cause extra impact on the knees.

Strength Training

Strength training is also considered both safe for our joints as well as critical to ongoing musculoskeletal health. There is a misconception that strength training (especially lower body exercises) may be harmful to the knees in particular but this is not accurate.

Exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts and step-ups provide functional strength training, allowing contraction of multiple muscle groups that support the hip, knee, and ankle.

Joint Pain in the Neck and Back

Your spine runs from the base of your skull to your lower back, and is broken down into three main segments—cervical spine (in the neck), thoracic spine (in the upper back), and lumbar spine (in the lower back). Your spine is made up of small bones called vertebrae.

Between the vertebrae are small joints called facet joints, which give your spine flexibility. When arthritis develops in these joints, that can lead to neck and back pain.

If you experience neck and/or back pain, try one (or all!) of these low-impact exercises:

Rebounding (Trampoline Workout)

It may seem counter-intuitive, but given that the springs absorb most of the impact, it is considered a great low-impact exercise for those with back pain. Rebounding increases back flexibility and strengthens the muscles around the spine.


With many positions and the ability to be adapted to all levels, yoga is extremely effective in building both flexibility and strength in a low-impact way. Over an extended period, it can even improve posture, alleviating any pressure in the spine caused by bad posture.

Tai Chi

Although not commonly considered, tai chi is a low-impact exercise that provides many benefits to those suffering with neck, back, knee, and/or hip pain. It can improve your breathing, circulation, posture, and flexibility. When practiced regularly, you will feel less stiff and more relaxed.

Note that most of these low-impact exercises are safe to perform no matter the joint pain you are experiencing, but consult with your doctor first to see which exercises are best for you and your needs.

Joint-Approved Low-Impact Exercises for a Pain-Free Lifestyle

With the variety of fun, safe exercises to choose from, it is easier than ever to maintain a healthy, active, pain-free lifestyle.

To learn more, self-schedule an appointment now. Or, call us any time at (919) 220-5255.

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