In the last article I wrote about how to avoid joint injuries by modifying your exercise routine to maximize the benefit to risk ratio. However, whether it be from reckless movements, not giving yourself enough rest, getting older, or any number of countless reasons, injuries may still occur.
Emphasis on how to prevent injuries should be on the forefront, but the truth is that joint health unfortunately is one of those things that people just don't fully appreciate until something's wrong. So if you struggle with joint pain, then you need to read this article...
In this article I want to help you understand more about joint pain, what causes it, how to help ease it if you have joint issues already and more importantly how to prevent it in the future for those of you forward-thinking enough to prioritize preventative measures.
When it comes to joint pain, it's important to understand that there are several different contributing factors that could be the cause of your discomfort.
What Type of Injury do You Have?
Not all injuries are the same, and it can help to understand what the different types of injuries are and how to treat them. From strains to sprains, tendonitis to bursitis, cartilage to meniscus, there are many different issues that can arise at different joints with varying levels of severity. Knowing more about the injury will determine the type of treatment needed.
A single bad movement or exercise can cause a sudden injury that can vary in severity. Here are some of the injuries that can occur acutely.
Muscle strain / Tendon strain
A muscle tendon is the structure that connects a muscle to a bone. In essence a tendon is an extension of a muscle, which is the reason why muscles and tendons are commonly grouped together. A strain is temporary damage to either the muscle or tendon.
There are many ways muscles or tendons can be strained including lifting excessive weight without adequate warm up, stretching cold muscles or stretching too far or too fast. Loading too much weight that causes excessive eccentric contractions will also cause a strain.
In the list of injuries, a strain is the least of worries. Adequate rest, amino acids, and an antiinflammatory will allow for an expedited recovery. Muscles have a great ability to repair themselves with proper time and nutrition
A sprain is a type of injury that occurs in the joint that may not directly affect a muscle or tendon. Instead it affects the ligaments. Ligaments are structures that connect bones with other bones and form the joint.
When a joint moves in an unnatural direction, this can put shearing forces on a joint that cause stress or damage to the ligaments. Sprained ankles and wrists are common from hyper-rotation causing specific ligaments to stretch beyond their usual ranges but does not causes a tear. The trauma causes a rapid inflammatory response, indicated by swelling of the joint.
Sprains are considered a mild injury but still take a significant amount of time to heal due to their lack of innervation and vascularity. Rest, ice, elevation, and an antiinflammatory is an important first step to reduce the swelling and minimize the total damage.
Over time, very light movement with minimum resistance will help get healing factors into the joint for a full recovery.
A dislocation occurs when a bone moves out of place. Blunt trauma or excessive force on a joint may cause a tear in a ligament. Since ligaments hold the joints together, by rupturing a ligament, a joint becomes vulnerable to move outside the confines of the typical range of movement.
If dislocation occurs, stop exercise immediately and seek medical attention. It is possible that ligaments may need to be reconstructed before activity can continue.
In regards to acute injuries, a fracture is the worst. A fracture refers to any structural damage to a bone from a crack (hairline fracture) to a complete break. Whenever the integrity of a bone is compromised, any activities bearing any force on that bone needs to stop for at least 8-10 weeks to allow for the bone to heal. If severe enough, the bone may need to be reset or surgically repaired before healing can begin to take place.
Dramatic acute injuries may be the most noticeable, but the long slow deterioration of structures within the body can lead to more nagging and persisting pain and discomfort. What’s worse, is due to the long duration of the damage, recovery can be exceedingly long.
Bad form, repetitive motions and muscle imbalances will inevitably lead to chronic pathologies that are difficult to overcome because they can go symptom free until it becomes a serious condition. Here are a list of injuries that can develop over time from misuse or abuse of the body:
Distinct from a tendon strain that is suddenly damaged, tendonitis is characterized as inflammation or irritation of the tendons that progresses over time. Chronic overuse or repetitive actions can irritate the tendons and cause them to swell.
Additionally, inflammation within joints from another injury, can causes swelling within the region and apply pressure on the tendons that cross that joint. As these tendons get irritated, compressed or simply rub up against other structures in the joint, they too begin to swell and become painful.
The symptom of pain is intended to reduced activity to allow for the swelling to dissipate and allow for the tendon and other affected structures to heal.
A bursa is a sac filled with lubricating fluid located within joints to create a smooth, gliding surface for normal painless movement by decreasing friction and irritation. Bursitis occurs when the bursa gets pinched, compressed or irritated with poor mechanics or repetitive movements and consequently becomes inflamed.
An inflamed bursa becomes less functional and causes painful and restricting movements. The movement of tendons and muscles over an inflamed bursa aggravates the inflammation and can perpetuate the pathology.
Fortunately, the cycle can be broken from rest, and anti inflammatories to relieve bursitis before it escalates into a more serious issue.
There are different types of cartilage, but in general it functions as a protective material that covers the ends of bones at the joints to prevent or reduce the risk of bone damage when bones come in contact with one another.
It is made of collagen to allow for smooth movement between bone surfaces. However, with excessive wear and tear without sufficient recovery time, cartilage can deteriorate until bone becomes exposed, at which point bone on bone contact severely damages the bone.
Cartilage is very slow to turnover and does not repair easily. Injury to the cartilage leads to inflammation and pain in the joint and in the long term develops into osteoarthritis.
Articular cartilage is a single layer covering a part of a bone that makes contact with another bone. The most substantial example is the articular cartilage of the patella (kneecap) creating a smooth surface as it glides along the femur.
Specific joints have additional fibrocartilaginous structures to provide further stability and protection. For instance, the intervertebral disks in the spine, the menisci in the knee or the labrums in the shoulders and hips. All these structures provide additional cushion for joints that endure greater forces.
A meniscus is a fibrocartilaginous structure that provides a cushion between your thigh and shin bones in your knee to absorb compressive forces in the vertical direction. It is commonly damaged when the force is not coming from a vertical direction. For instance, shearing forces or twisting movements that the knee does not allow for causes unnatural wear and tear on the meniscus.
A labrum is a fibrocartilaginous structure in a “ball and socket joint” like the shoulders and hips that is attached to the socket and provides additional stability to the ball. Repetitive use with improper mechanics can cause a torn labrum.
Unfortunately, damage to cartilage is very slow to heal, and depending on the severity, may require surgery to regain full function. Attention to proper mechanics should minimize the unnecessary wear on cartilage to reduce joint discomfort.
Osteoarthritis is the most severe joint pathology because it is literally the bone being degraded away at the joints. Although, typically reserved for old age, osteoarthritis can develop as a consequence of continuing exercise with severe cartilage damage.
Overcoming osteoarthritis is a long process of proper nutrition and exercise rehabilitation. Anti Inflammatories can certainly help, along with nutritional supplements supporting bone development.
A common theme among many joint injuries is the slow rate of healing, or minimal healing capacity in general.
Identifying what kind of injury you have is a good start to understanding how it can be treated, how much exercise you can continue to perform, and how long the recovery is expected to take.
Pain is generally a decent indicator that something is wrong, and it is rarely advisable to fight through joint pain to continue to make gains because it may end up hurting your gains in the long run, when injuries become more serious and you are forced to abstain from exercise over an extended period to allow for healing.
By far, the best way to deal with joint injuries is by taking preventative measures in advance. This means modifying exercises that place your joints in compromising positions, as mentioned in the previous article and training intelligently with proper form.
As an additonal assurance, you might also consider supplementing for improved joint health such as Blue Star Nutraceuticals Joint Armor™. If you'd like to check that out and see how it can help support and strengthen your joints, click over to the next page: