dumbbell training

Strength Training with OA

Got Arthritis? How about lifting weights?

Well, that sounds challenging. I mean, who would expect that someone who suffers from Osteoarthritis would be interested in lifting weights? The answer may surprise you. Not only those who have used weights before their diagnosis but as well, a great many individuals who want to get into shape.

Exercise is first-class medicine for Arthritis

Every doctor this writer has ever spoken to agrees. Exercising when you have arthritis (OA) is not only smart, it is essential. Strength exercising (like lifting weights) helps build up muscles. In turn, those stronger muscles help to support joint structures. 

Of course, there are “lighter exercise regimens” that everyone with OA should be doing. That would be the aerobic types of exercise that comes with walking; swimming; riding a bicycle; or, using an Elliptical machine. So, if you are going to up the ante you might want to consider some weightlifting.

Weight Training for OA patients

It makes perfect sense. We just mentioned that building up muscles helps to support joint structures. And, there is no better way to do that then to lift weights. The reason is that it stabilizes your joints and that is important to those with OA.

What is strength training?

The key to understanding this is found in one word. “Resistance” When you are lifting weights you are building resistance which in turn, strengthens your muscles. Resistance is what causes muscles to retract. You can get that resistance by using hand-held weights; a weight machine and, using Therabands (also called resistance bands.) If you think about it, your own body can also cause resistance. For example, you can step away from a wall and place one hand on it. As you lean in, you can feel the resistance that is created.

Is using weights safe for arthritis patients?

Yes. It certainly is safe for you to use weights if you suffer from OA in parts of your body. There is this one warning though. If you experience pain, you should stop. So, what does that mean? Does any pain at all affect my ability to use weights?

No. Of course not. We are referring to pain that comes from an area of your body that is affected by OA. Let the location of your pain be your guide.

Weight training and age

A large percentage of those with Osteoarthritis are older. And, for those that are older it means that muscle strength has declined. And, muscle weakness also is found in those who are suffering from OA. So, how do you overcome this combination of issues?

Train cautiously

There is no doubt that this strength training is good for your arthritis. So, you just have to be aware that going a little slowly and more cautiously is the answer. When you are using strength training, you are also causing stress on joints. So, for most of you with OA it is probably a good idea to discuss this with your doctor.

Risks vs. Benefits of lifting weights

The benefits are quite clear. Namely, that you are assisting joints by building strength in muscles surrounding your joints. So, if you want to do this the right way you should approach it one of two ways.

Personal trainers or Physical rehab experts

Your physician can likely send you to a local physical rehab specialist in your area. Or, if your doctor feels you can handle a strength program, you can check in with a local gym to get together with a personal trainer. Either way, you are taking steps to approach strength training using good sense.

Do not tackle this at home

Unless you have had a lot of experience with using weights, do not try this on your own at home. The risk of injury is greater and you are likely defeating the purpose of doing this to begin with.

Taking medications?

Are you currently taking any prescription medications? Some of you may already be taking pain medications. If you are, any possible injury from using weights may even go unnoticed. Think about it! It would be very easy to overlook an injury that could be very serious. 

Warming up

If you are going to start using weights, always begin using light stretching exercises before you lift even a single pound. And, only use light weights to begin with. If you overreach with heavier weights, you are setting yourself up for an injury. Let me give you an example.


How about starting with some 10-lb. dumbbells? If you go on YouTube you will find many individuals using only dumbbells for their workouts. And, they can be highly effective. The point is that even these lower weight dumbbells can become an issue. Most of those using them for strength training are using multiple repetitions for their strength program. So, the risk of injury is still there even with smaller weights.

Keep your body in alignment

When using weights, it is very important to keep your body in alignment with the given exercise you are doing. If you do not do this, you are running the risk of a strained joint. You will also find that working opposite muscle groups will also build up your balance which is also important for those with OA.

If you approach using weights when you have arthritis, you can improve your situation considerably. Above all else, be safe. If you push beyond your limits or use unsafe techniques, you are just making matters worse.