Stretch Away the Stiffness of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Stop with the excuses! Stretching is free, easy and you can even do it as you read this piece.

Lisa Robins

Good news: There’s a soothing, gentle way to help take the edge off joint pain. It’s totally free, it doesn’t take much time and you don’t need any fancy equipment. It’s stretching! And the benefits—less stiffness, improved mobility and less stress on joints—are worth the small effort. Get started right now with these four easy moves—you can do them without even getting out of your chair!


Loosen your neck
Start with body erect, shoulders relaxed, and slowly turn head to the left as far as you can, comfortably stretching your neck. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Return to starting position. Then turn to the right. Alternate left and right until you’ve done 4 reps on each side.

Relax your chest, shoulders and upper back
Arms are up at your sides, elbows at 90-degree angles, hands about head height, palms out. Keep elbows bent, and slowly press arms back while gently squeezing shoulder blades together. Hold the position for 10-30 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat for a total of 4 reps.

Limber up your knees and feet
Sit at the edge of the chair with knees bent, heels on the floor. Slowly extend right leg in front of you and flex the foot up, keeping heel on the floor and toes spread. Place hands gently on left thigh and lean slightly forward until you feel a stretch on the back of your leg. Keep back straight and abs contracted. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Alternate, doing 4 reps on each leg.

Soothe your wrists, hands and fingers
Sit relaxed and upright, hands resting on knees, palms up. Slowly spread your hands and fingers out as far as you can while flexing your wrists downward, fingertips pointing toward the floor. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Then slowly roll fingers into a fist and flex wrists upward. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Alternate downward and upward stretches for 4 reps each.

What you should know before you begin…

  • Be sure to get your doctor’s okay.
  • Choose a firm but comfortable chair.
  • Pick a time when you’re the least stiff.

While you stretch…

  • Breathe normally.
  • Start by holding each stretch for 10 seconds and build up to 30 as comfort allows.
  • Don’t bounce; it can actually tighten your muscles.
  • Don’t lock your elbows or knees.
  • Stop immediately if you experience any pain.
April 2013