When your bones, joints or muscles hurt, the last thing you feel like doing is lifting weights or doing heavy exercise. The fact is, though, exercising and strength training are essential for breaking the pain cycle, strengthening muscles around tender joints and building up bone strength. The trick is to lift weights correctly.

Strength training is also referred to as resistance training or weight lifting. You don't have to pump heavy iron to gain the benefits. Light hand weights, resistance bands and body-weight exercises like yoga, push-ups and Pilates, can provide all the strength training a body needs. In fact, even strength training exercises performed in water can be enough to get your muscles into tip-top shape.

Having Reservations?

It's perfectly normal to be skeptical of lifting weights, especially if you never have or if you've always been told that you couldn't. Here, we outline how strength training can benefit those suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and common injuries.

If you have arthritis...

Arthritis is characterized by joint pain and swelling. It can be a symptom of many different conditions including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Strength training is especially important for people with arthritis because every joint is dependent on muscles to make it move. If those muscles are weak and flabby, joints have to work harder to pull weight, remain stable and create movement. This can cause joint damage, inflammation and pain. When muscles are strong, however, they provide the right amount of support so joints can move smoothly. 

The Arthritis Foundation highly recommends weight or resistance training and says: Lifting weights or resistance training offers numerous benefits to help manage arthritis pain. Exercise keeps muscles around affected joints strong, lubricates joints, decreases bone loss and helps control joint swelling and pain.

If you have fibromyalgia...

Fibromyalgia is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes widespread muscle, skin, joint and tendon pain as well as fatigue, anxiety and insomnia.

Strength training is key to breaking the pain cycle with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia. 

The National Fibromyalgia Association says: Exercise helps break the chronic pain cycle associated with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) by improving fitness and functional levels, relieving physical and emotional stress, and boosting one's confidence and self-esteem. . . . Strength training exercises increase your muscle strength and can make daily activities, such as climbing stairs and carrying laundry, easier. Stronger muscles use less effort to do work than weaker muscles.

If you've had an injury or surgery...

Even people recovering from hip or knee surgery are encouraged to add strength training to their physical therapy routine.

Strength Train Safely

The key to training safely is to start out easy and build up gradually.

  • If you're brand new to exercise, start with walking, swimming or other gentle aerobic exercise.
  • Once you're used to regular movement, consult with a physical therapist or fitness trainer with experience working with your condition.

Using proper technique when doing any type of strength training is very important. Your fitness instructor can walk you through everything you need to know to strength train correctly. 

  • Start with very light hand weights, some stretchy resistance bands and a few simple exercises, repeated a dozen times or less.
  • Bit by bit, add more exercises, heavier weights and a variety of strength training machines and devices.

Strength training may make your muscles sore when you're first getting started, but before you know it, you'll be toned, strong and feeling better than ever. 


Arthritis Today

The Consumer Health Magazine Published by the Arthritis Foundation

Lifting Weights With Arthritis

Lifting Weights with Arthritis

By Linda Melone, ACSM-CPT, ACE


National Fibromyalgia Association

Strength Training for the Person with Fibromyalgia

By Brittany Evans, Matthew Romeling, Martha Cross and Daniel S. Rooks, PhD Division of Rheumatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center