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Five Ways to Avoid Joint Pain

Do you find your joints aching for seemingly no apparent reason? Even small aches and pains are your body’s way of telling you something is not working correctly and this should not be ignored. According to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study, 30% of the people surveyed reported some form of joint pain within a 30-day period. The greatest number of respondents had knee joint pain, followed by shoulder, finger and then hip joint pain.

Our joints move an incredible amount each day, bearing heavy loads. They’re often strained without us really paying attention. This accounts for wear and tear, sprains and even injuries.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons for Joint Pain and How You Can Improve Them:

Repetitive Movement Injuries
A repetitive movement injury is when you perform the same task over and over again, straining the muscles, tissues and joints that are involved. For example, lifting heavy boxes with poor body mechanics can cause a repetitive injury. Another example of a repetitive injury is moving your computer mouse all day long with poor posture. This repetitive movement strains muscles, tendons and ligaments, causing abnormal pressure on the wrist, elbow, shoulder and cervical spine joints.

Using good body mechanics, practicing correct upright posture and breaking activities up helps protect against injury. For example, if you have to trim a tree, don’t spend hours looking up trimming and immediately gather the trimmings afterwards. Break up the activity by trimming for a short while, then squat down to pick up branches to put into a pile using proper lifting body mechanics. This alternates the muscles you are using, reducing repetitive strain on one concentrated area of the body.

Posture
Poor posture is the number one cause of most joint pain. Upright posture is critical to the alignment of the joints in the body from your spine to your shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and feet. For example, a forward head posture from prolonged sitting protrudes the shoulders forward and weakens the back muscles such as the erector spinae, rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius and latissimus dorsi. Over time, this can lead to shoulder impingement and rotator cuff injuries without physical therapy intervention.

Make sure you are aware of your posture throughout the day. Take frequent, short breaks to stretch and move around. Sit in a chair that has lumbar support and place your feet flat on the floor. Your hips and knees should be bent to about 90 degrees. Improve your posture by performing postural  exercises such as shoulder blade squeezes and stretching exercises such as pectoral stretches.

seated posture check

Weakness
Joints need muscles to move and provide support. Most joint pains are related to poor strength and function of the surrounding muscles. For example, knee pain often accompanies weakness in a small muscle on the inner thigh, called the Vastus Medialis Obliquus (VMO). This muscle is critical to how your kneecap tracks. Therefore, with a weak VMO and poor quadriceps control, knee pain often occurs due to the poor tracking of the kneecap.

Strength training is a vital part of remaining healthy. It is also important to incorporate cardiovascular exercise to keep your heart and body in tip-top condition. Strength training is best done with a professional physical therapist or physical therapist assistant to make sure you are moving your body correctly before transitioning to a fitness routine, especially if you have had or are currently having pain.

Strengthening exercise VMO

Arthritis
There are many forms of arthritis, but the most common is osteoarthritis. This is caused by wear and tear on the joint cartilage surfaces. Arthritis becomes painful when there is a build of inflammation and joint debris from the cartilage. When joints don’t move correctly and smoothly, abnormal pressure on the surface of the joints can occur, causing pain. Arthritic joints generally lose motion and the surrounding muscles become weaker. This causes a spiraling effect of pain and poor joint support.

osteoarthritis

Arthritis pain can be effectively treated with the right physical therapy plan of care. Improving joint movement and surrounding muscle strength, builds joint support and stabilization. This lessens the joint inflammation, abnormal pressure and pain. Often combined with pain management injections and — in worse case scenarios — joint replacement, physical therapy is an important treatment for arthritic joints.

Sprains
Sprains are movements beyond the normal range of the joint. This causes tearing of tendons, ligaments and other tissues that give joints their stability. Common sprains often occur in the ankles, knees, shoulders, wrists and fingers. Many sprains occur from forceful injuries such as playing sports, but others can occur because the muscles surrounding the joint were too weak.

ankle sprain

To prevent sprains, it is important to have overall muscle strength throughout your body to support your joints. If you have suffered a knee or ankle sprain before, it is important to strengthen the muscles around those effected joints to avoid re-injury in the future. The likelihood of re-spraining these joints increases once you have already had a sprain because the joint is already looser and less stable.

There is a lot that can be done to eliminate your joint pain and get you back to an active lifestyle. If you have aching or painful joints that are interfering with the activities you love, call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center at 703-450-4300 to schedule an evaluation today. Check out our website each week for the latest health tips, updates and physical therapy research at www.loudounsportstherapy.com. See how good life can be when you are living pain free!

Don’t let pain limit you. We care. We listen. We get RESULTS!