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Exercises for people with inflammatory arthritis

Exercise has three important functions:

  1. To maintain or improve muscle power around the joints
  2. To maintain or improve the range of movement of a joint
  3. To help achieve a functional goal or target eg getting out of a chair, dressing.

Starting your exercise

Listen to your body: The purpose of the exercise is to put each joint through its own natural movement. Eventually you will learn to understand your body's signals and know just how much to do and when to rest. Several short periods of exercise a day are much better than one long session.

  • Your exercises should always be carried out in a slow controlled manner.
  • Start gently, one time through each exercise.
  • Hold each position for three seconds.
  • If after 24 hours you feel alright, gradually increase each exercise to three repetitions perhaps over the period of one week.
  • Stop at the first sign of any problems and review the situation. If your muscles ache, but there is no increase in joint pain, do the same number again.
  • If you experience an increase in joint pain then decrease the number of repetitions. If there is a marked increase in joint pain or swelling, stop that exercise and seek advice.
  • When joints are flared up (swollen, hot and painful) ONLY do one repeat of each exercise.

Points to remember


  • Try to ensure that every day you move all your joints through their normal range of movement
  • Pace yourself with work or exercise. Too much can lead to painful, stiff joints the next day
  • Ask to be referred to the physiotherapy department if you find these exercises difficult or you would like to be given more instruction


  • Force any movement
  • Start by doing too many exercises
  • 'Push' yourself because you think it is good for you
  • Try to 'work off' pain and inflammation
  • Stand for long periods when you could sit
  • Put the pillows under your knees - this can lead to difficulty straightening your knees.

If you have any further questions or need advice about your treatment phone the rheumatology advice line on 01202 442849

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Advice line

If you have any concerns or questions about your exercises, call the rheumatology advice line:

01202 442849

Opening hours:
Monday-Friday 9am - 4pm

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB. Tel: 01202 665511

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