Yes, Resistance-Band Training Is Worth It — Especially If You Have Joint Pain

Beautiful young woman exercising outdoor with resistance band
Getty Images | South_agency
Getty Images | South_agency

If you deal with joint pain, the thought of squatting with a heavy barbell in your home — unsupervised by a professional — is understandably intimidating, especially if you're brand new to lifting weights.

You should know that strength training can be done by those who have joint pain — in fact, the Arthritis Foundation states it can be particularly helpful for those suffering with arthritis.

However, if you're worried that dumbbells will worsen your discomfort or leave you with an injury, you still have options on equipment — try switching up your strength-training tools with resistance bands instead.

"In general, if you are new to strength training or are experiencing a significant increase in pain, resistance bands can be a better option over weights," Jennifer Heberton, PT, DPT, OSC, a physical therapist at HSS says.

"Resistance bands provide feedback to your joints throughout the full motion of an exercise. This allows for increased stability of the joint through muscular activation and decreases the amount of stress put on the joint surfaces."

Because resistance bands offer a light loading to the muscles around the painful joints, Heberton explains they then allow you to try new exercises or different exercise variations with a "decreased risk of overloading the joint surfaces."

But, that's not to say strength training with traditional dumbbells should be avoided if you deal with joint pain.

While resistance bands provide feedback, Heberton says that strength training requires people to have "good control and muscular stability around the joints so they can move a weight without as much feedback."

When Heberton is creating a program for someone, she says she typically uses resistance bands to provide ample feedback in the beginning and then challenges the body by progressing to weights as appropriate.

So, it's really all about strength training with weights safely.

For example, Heberton suggests using the correct weight for each exercise — or one that doesn't sacrifice form or cause you pain while completing the movement — and modifying when needed.

"Injuries occur when people ignore pain, and/or the importance of form and proper muscle activation when doing strength training with weights," Heberton adds.

Of course, it's always a smart idea to consult a certified personal trainer or medical professional before jumping into any strength-training program as a beginner — joint pain or not.

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