Do you find you can no longer reach for that book on the top shelf? Does your elbow hurt when someone asks you to simply pass the salt during dinner? Or do your knees give way almost every time you try to get up from your chair?

12If the answer is yes to any one of these (or all), then you’re one of the scores of people across the world who suffer from joint pain. In fact, joint diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and more than 100 other forms of inflammatory conditions affect several hundred million people worldwide, says the 2010 report of the World Bone and Joint Decade campaign, 2000-10, first launched by the University of Lund, Sweden, at the World Health Organisation in 2000.

This figure is set to increase exponentially, with the number of people over age 50 expected to double by 2020.

The campaign highlights the need to take immediate action to prevent and treat such “disabling disorders". Yet most people ignore the early symptoms of joint pain, such as slight swelling, sudden pain while moving or loss of strength in certain joint or muscle areas, says Harmeet Bawa, physiotherapist, Safdarjung Hospital. This delay “unnecessarily creates chronic cases", she says, ahead of World Arthritis Day on Tuesday.

“I get lots of patients who complain of knee, shoulders and other joint-related problems because of the wrong posture and long working hours," says Dr Bawa.

For 33-year-old Nimit Saidha, long hours at the office desk over the last three years have resulted in severe back and shoulder problems. “My wrong sitting posture for extended periods and not taking breaks started giving me a lot of trouble in my shoulders," says Saidha, head, quality, Onicra Credit Rating Agency, Gurgaon.

Senior government official Dipali Khanna, 57, had been ignoring small aches and pains over the last 10 years, believing she had a fairly active lifestyle outside of work. She was doing yoga, playing golf, going to the gym occasionally. She only realized all was not well when, a couple of years ago, she hurt her back and shoulders while lugging her luggage around Mumbai airport during one trip. “I really needed to do some physio after that, and have been taking care of myself more regularly ever since," she says.

“The triggers for these (joint pains) might be just working regularly on a keyboard, where the elbows are not supported (which can result in wrist and elbow pain), or sitting on a high chair where the feet don’t touch the ground (which can cause knee and even back problems)—which should be avoided," says Bharati Jajoo, co-founder, Ergoworks, a Bangalore-based ergonomics-consulting firm.

Basic joint problems, says Jajoo, can lead to the early onset of problems such as arthritis and shoulder tendonitis.

Some simple exercises and stretches recommended by Dr Bawa and Vaibhav Patil, physiotherapist for the Indian boxing team, can help keep your joints in good shape.


Side extension with resistance band

Front extension with resistance band

Step on to the resistance band, holding both ends in your hands. Keep both hands parallel to the body on both sides and stand straight. Slowly extend your arm outwards to the front of (and away from) your body, but do not take your hand higher than the shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds and then slowly bring the arm down into a relaxed position. Repeat five times, then switch to the other hand.


Supination with resistance band

Flexion with resistance band

Stand on the middle portion of the resistance band, legs slightly apart, with both ends in your hands on either side. Your arms should be parallel to your body, with the palms facing forward. Gradually bend your elbows up (keeping your upper arms straight). Slowly bring your fists up to your shoulders. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly lower your arms so that they are straight and parallel to your body. Repeat five times.

Ankles and Feet

Resisted plantar-flexion

Resisted dorsi-flexion

Assume the same position as above. Attach the band to a wall or door, with your foot through the loop so that the band is taut. Pull your foot towards your body, and against the band, without moving your heel. Count till five, then relax. Repeat five times, then switch to the other leg.


Static quad

Go to the staircase or simply find some place with an elevated level. Stand straight and put one leg on the elevated level/step, so that your thigh and calf are perpendicular to each other. Push your knee down (as if you are stomping on something). Make sure you can feel your quadricep muscles tightening. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times, then switch to the other leg.

Hamstring stretch on step

Leg extension raise

Sit on a chair with both feet flat on the ground, knees touching and back straight. Keep your hands parallel on the sides and parallel to your body. Raise one leg up straight so that it is parallel to the ground. Hold for 10 seconds, and return to a normal sitting position. Repeat five times, then switch to the other leg.

Note: There are three types of resistance bands, with resistance levels starting from 1. Those with chronic pains should start with level 1, others can start with level 2. Graduate to level 3 only after you feel comfortable with 2, and after consulting a physiotherapist or personal trainer.

Photographs by Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Model: Nikhil Grover, personal trainer, Fitness First, Connaught Place, New Delhi.