Joint Pain and Ways to Reduce It
Joint pain is one of the big reasons people stop exercising or avoid starting in the first place. That's a mistake. There are four primary causes of joint pain, and all of them can improve when you workout appropriately. Here are the issues and ways to deal with the problem.
Arthritis is typically an inflammation of the joints. There are over 100 types, with the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors used to advise people with arthritis to avoid exercise in the mistaken belief that exercise could further damage the joints and make the situation worse. That's false.
At the Institute for Behavioral Research in The Netherlands, they took patients with arthritis and randomly assigned them to one of two groups. One group had three weeks of intensive exercise therapy when they were discharged. The other was given "usual care" when they left the hospital.
The group with intensive exercise therapy had a "better quality of life at lower costs after 1 year." And that was with only three weeks of exercise! Hundreds of studies have come to the same conclusion. Exercise improves muscle function in people with arthritis and does not affect disease activity.
Arthritic individuals tend to avoid exercise because they're afraid it will hurt. Unfortunately, for the first couple of weeks, they're right. Anyone who begins any exercise program will experience some muscle pains and discomfort. But after the first few weeks, a regular exercise schedule helps reduce long-term arthritic pain and suffering.
Tendinopathy (also known as tendinitis or tendonitis) is a disorder that causes pain, swelling and limits your movement. The most common cause is repetitive activities. Musicians, people who do manual labor and athletes who repeat the same movements are most at risk.
Your first step should be figuring out what activity may be causing it. Have a physical therapist evaluate your movement patterns to see if you need to change what you're doing. It may be poor form or underdeveloped muscles that need to be strengthened. Something as simple as a grip change can mean the difference between painful and pain-free.
The next step is therapeutic exercises. In 2010 researchers published a study using a small rubber bar called a FlexBar to treat tendinitis of the elbow (tennis elbow). Subjects were instructed to perform standard physical therapy or a series of movements called the "Tyler Twist" with the FlexBar.
The results were stunning. 76% of the subjects performing the Tyler Twist saw marked improvement compared to only 13% of the people performing routine physical therapy. Results for pain were even more incredible, with 81% of the people using the FlexBar reporting improvement compared to only 22% of people using standard therapy. The results were so dramatic, researchers stopped the study early and opened it up to all the test subjects.
Exercises and changing the way you perform repetitive activities is the cure for many forms of tendinitis, not the cause.
Overweight or Obese
Being overweight stresses joints. The heavier you are, the more likely you are to experience pain in your joints. But it's not caused by what you might think.
Most people believe joint pain in the knees is a wear-and-tear problem. The more we move, the more our joints suffer. Heavier people put more stress on the joints, causing them to become inflamed. Inflammation from all that movement then causes pain and problems like osteoarthritis.
That's not what researchers found when they studied the problem. Doctors discovered that simply being overweight increases inflammation levels in the body. That inflammation from the excess weight creates problems in joints and results in pain.
Too much weight is still the problem. But the inflammation caused by the excess weight is the trigger, not movement of the joints. That excess inflammation has been linked to dozens of other dangerous health conditions. Dropping just 10% of your body weight can significantly reduce pain and long-term medical problems.
Injuries or Surgery
Finally, there's the joint pain associated with injuries or surgery. Let's say you get a knee replacement. After you've given your body a couple of days to start recovering, it's critical that you begin a doctor-approved program of exercise.
Let's use knee replacement as an example. The joint may be replaced, but all the stuff around it, like ligaments, muscles, tendons and other tissue, need attention. They have to be strengthened to support the replaced joint.
If you skip exercising and physical therapy, the supporting tissue around the replacement part gets weaker. As you lose strength, you're less likely to move, resulting in a downward spiral of weakness and pain.
Appropriate exercise is critical when dealing with any of these significant joint problems. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about what you can start today.
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