Degenerative Joint Disease and Working Out

A reader recently wrote me and asked if working out after being diagnosed with degenerative joint disease (DJD) would be a waste of time. I have a feeling that if I would have heard the question being asked in person that I would have heard frustration in the voice.

It’s only natural to be distraught when we receive bad news, and I touched on the subject of setbacks when I talked about Dealing With Setbacks, Doubt, and Criticism.

With an aging Boomer population and high rates of obesity complicating all kinds of conditions, it’s important to examine whether any one condition could sideline you permanently from working on your health and fitness. It is also important to note, however, that DJD is a very common condition, and it can affect anyone of any age. Hereditary conditions and injury also contribute to instances of DJD.

I’ll address my response to my reader in just a moment, but first let’s take a look at what DJD is.

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), osteoarthritis


DJD, or osteoarthritis, is sometimes associated with osteoporosis. It is a wear and tear of the joint surface which usually consists of the cartilage and underlying bones. As the cartilage and connective joint tissues break down, the bone surfaces rub together. This condition is usually accompanied by joint swelling and hardening of the bone, which both restrict range of motion.

As cartilage receives little blood flow, it is hard to get the proper nutrients delivered to repair damage from trauma and illness. This results in joint injuries which often require surgery, and troubles associated with damaged cartilage linger and persist.

The pain associated with this condition often prevents those who suffer from it from moving the affected joint. This causes the surrounding muscles to become weaker and results in them providing even less support, which makes the condition worse.

Unfortunately, ongoing treatment is often required.  Treatments of DJD include acetaminophen, pain killers, narcotics, steroids, and surgery.

Despite all of these consequences associated with having DJD, can you guess what my advice was to my reader?

You ABSOLUTELY should continue to workout despite being diagnosed with DJD!

Your best bet for maintaining mobility and strength in the body part affected by DJD is to continue to use it.

When you exercise body parts, it brings blood and nutrients to those areas, and this can help the healing process. Controlling your body weight can also alleviate a lot of stress on your joints.

Further, exercise can strengthen the muscles and connective tissues around the affected joint and provide additional support.

It’s important to follow the advice of your doctor. Be smart and don’t overdo it and create further distress. Back off if you feel pain.

Recommended Exercises include:

  • low impact aerobics
  • swimming
  • cycling
  • yoga
  • body-weight and isometric strength exercises

Higher impact sports and exercises such as jogging and basketball should be avoided.

Further Reading on DJD

Exercise’s Effects on Bones and Muscles

Degenerative Joint Disease

Degenerative Bone Disease Treatments

Arthritis and Joint Problems

Degenerative Joint Disease in Lower Back & Exercises


Do any of you have experience with this condition? I would value your perspective. Thanks for reading!

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