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Health Information Joint Health: Stretching

Stretching for Joint Health

Stretching is an important part of joint health. It can be as simple as this upper body stretch: Keep your arms straight and reach toward the sky. Hold for five seconds and lower. Then bend over and reach toward your toes. If you can’t easily reach them, don’t force it. Just go as far as you can comfortably. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.

Other Quick and Easy Stretches

Here are a couple more light stretches from the Arthritis Foundation for you to try.

  • Back pats
    Put one hand behind your neck and the other behind your lower back. Now slowly slide your hands closer together along your spine and hold for three seconds. Alternate arm position and repeat.
  • Head turns
    Look straight ahead then turn your head slowly to look over your left shoulder. Hold that stretch for three seconds and repeat to the right side.
  • Knee lifts
    Sit down with your back straight and both feet on the floor. Now lift one knee up three or four inches and hold for three seconds. Lower your leg then repeat with the other knee.
Preparing for More Vigorous Physical Activity

Warm Up

The first thing that you want to do is get your body warmed up a bit before you stretch. The muscles need to be warm and pliable to get the full benefit of the stretch and avoid injury. You can take a walk, go for a light jog or walk or jog in place to warm up your legs. You can roll your shoulders, raise your arms above your head or pump your arms to warm up your upper body.

Take It Slow

Slowly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain, and hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, then repeat, trying to stretch farther. Listen to your body. You want to lengthen your muscles to a good extension, but you don’t want to experience pain.

Some Stretches to Get Your Started

The following stretches are from the National Institutes of Health.

Hamstrings

Stretches muscles in back of thigh.

  1. Sit sideways on bench or other hard surface (such as two chairs placed side by side.
  2. Keep one leg stretched out on bench, straight, toes pointing up.
  3. Keep other leg off of bench, with foot flat on floor.
  4. Straighten back.
  5. If you feel a stretch at this point, hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  6. If you don’t feel a stretch, lean forward from hips (not waist) until you feel stretching in leg on bench, keeping back and shoulders straight. Omit this step if you have had a hip replacement, unless surgeon/therapist approves.
  7. Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  8. Repeat with other leg.
  9. Repeat 3 to 5 times on each side.
Alternative Hamstring Stretch

Stretches muscles in the back of the thigh.

  1. Stand behind chair, holding the back of it with both hands.
  2. Bend forward from the hips (not waist), keeping back and shoulders straight at all times.
  3. When upper body is parallel to floor, hold position for 10 to 30 seconds. You should feel a stretch in the backs of your thighs.
  4. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Calves

Stretches lower leg muscles in two ways: with knee straight and knee bent.

  1. Stand with hands against wall, arms outstretched and elbows straight.
  2. Keeping your left knee slightly bent, toes of right foot slightly turned inward, step back 1-2 feet with right leg, heel,and foot flat on floor. You should feel a stretch in your calf muscle, but you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable. If you don’t feel a stretch, move your foot farther back until you do.
  3. Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  4. Bend knee of right leg, keep heel and foot flat on floor.
  5. Hold position for another 10 to 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat with left leg.
  7. Repeat 3 to 5 times for each leg.
Ankles

Stretches front ankle muscles.

  1. Remove your shoes. Sit toward the front edge of a chair and lean back, using pillows to support your back.
  2. Stretch legs out in front of you.
  3. With your heels still on the floor, bend ankles to point feet toward you.
  4. Bend ankles to point feet away from you.
  5. If you don’t feel the stretch, repeat with your feet slightly off the floor.
  6. Hold the position for 1 second.
  7. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Triceps Stretch

Stretches muscles in back of upper arm.

  1. Hold one end of a towel in right hand.
  2. Raise and bend right arm to drape towel down back. Keep your right arm in this position, and continue holding onto the towel.
  3. Reach behind your lower back and grasp bottom end of towel with left hand.
  4. Climb left hand progressively higher up towel, which also pulls your right arm down. Continue until your hands touch, or as close to that as you can comfortably go.
  5. Reverse positions.
  6. Repeat each position 3 to 5 times.
Wrist Stretch

Stretches wrist muscles.

  1. Place hands together, in praying position.
  2. Slowly raise elbows so arms are parallel to floor, keeping hands flat against each other.
  3. Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Quadriceps

Stretches muscles in front of thighs.

  1. Lie on side on the floor. Your hips should be lined up so that one is directly above the other one.
  2. Rest head on pillow or hand.
  3. Bend knee that is on top.
  4. Reach back and grab heel of that leg. If you can’t reach your heal with your hand, loop a belt over your foot and hold belt ends.
  5. Gently pull that leg until front of thigh stretches.
  6. Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  7. Reverse position and repeat.
  8. Repeat 3 to 5 times on each side. If the back of your thigh cramps during this exercise, stretch your leg and try again, more slowly.
Double Hip Rotation

Stretches outer muscles of hips and thighs.

Don’t do this exercise if you have had a hip replacement, unless your surgeon approves.

  1. Lie on floor on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keep shoulders on floor at all times.
  3. Keeping knees bent and together, gently lower legs to one side as far as possible without forcing them.
  4. Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  5. Return legs to upright position.
  6. Repeat toward other side.
  7. Repeat 3 to 5 times on each side.
Single Hip Rotation

Stretches muscles of pelvis and inner thigh.

Don’t do this exercise if you have had a hip replacement, unless your surgeon approves.

  1. Lie on your back on floor, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keep shoulders on floor throughout exercise.
  3. Lower one knee slowly to side, keeping the other leg and your pelvis in place.
  4. Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  5. Bring knee back up slowly.
  6. Repeat with other knee.
  7. Repeat 3 to 5 times on each side.
Shoulder Rotation

Stretches shoulder muscles.

  1. Lie flat on floor, pillow under head, legs straight. If your back bothers you, place a rolled towel under your knees.
  2. Stretch arms straight out to side. Your shoulders and upper arms will remain flat on the floor throughout this exercise.
  3. Bend elbows so that your hands are pointing toward the ceiling. Let your arms slowly roll backwards from the elbow. Stop when you feel a stretch or slight discomfort, and stop immediately if you feel a pinching sensation or a sharp pain.
  4. Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  5. Slowly raise your arms, still bent at the elbow, to point toward the ceiling again. Then let your arms slowly roll forward, remaining bent at the elbow, to point toward your hips. Stop when you feel a stretch or slight discomfort.
  6. Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  7. Alternate pointing above head, then toward ceiling, then toward hips. Begin and end with pointing-above-head position.
  8. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Neck Rotation

Stretches neck muscles.

  1. Lie on the floor with a phone book or other thick book under your head.
  2. Slowly turn head from side to side, holding position each time for 10 to 30 seconds on each side. Your head should not be tipped forward or backward, but should be in a comfortable position. You can keep your knees bent to keep your back comfortable during this exercise.
  3. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

You can also take a class or work with a personal trainer for more stretching ideas.


 

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Joint Health: Stretching

   
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