The best way to keep your joints healthy is to BE ACTIVE. A sedentary lifestyle of sitting most of the day is not good for your joints, especially your knees. Moving your body regularly ensures adequate synovial fluid circulation within your joints to keep them healthy and to prevent stiffness. Losing bodyweight is particularly recommended to lessen knee pain due to cartilage breakdown. Every pound you lose removes four pounds of pressure from knees. Daily stretching is strongly recommended to lessen joint stiffness and pain. Just be sure to warm up your muscles prior to stretching to loosen up the tendons and ligaments surrounding your joints. Low-impact cardio exercises (e.g., walking, biking, swimming, etc.) are recommended to protect your joints from cartilage damage. Weight lifting is also encouraged to strengthen your muscles surrounding your joints and to lessen the risk of arthritis. Be sure to move your joints in a FULL RANGE OF MOTION when exercising to lessen stiffness. Also, perform core-strengthening exercises that work your abdominals, lower back, gluteals, and hamstrings to maintain a strong foundation for your joints. Eat fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, etc.) to lessen joint inflammation as well as plenty of dairy products containing calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones. Maintain good posture to protect your joints by performing exercises such as fast walking and swimming regularly.
When you go to the gym, the worst thing you can do is to only work on certain muscles at the expense of others. For instance, most guys like to focus on the "vanity" muscles--the ones you see in the mirror such as chest and biceps. But what about the antagonist muscles such as back and triceps? By neglecting the muscles you don't see in the mirror you risk incurring chronic muscle soreness and possible injury. Remember, it's all about balance. Balance in terms of strength and and balance in terms of flexibility between opposing muscle groups (e.g., biceps and triceps). You'd serve your body well by training in a manner that's comprehensive when it comes to exercising your muscles. There are, after all, over 600 muscles in your body! Be sure to give equal treatment to the muscles in front of your body as well as the rear. Consider a push-pull split routine in which you train only the push exercises one day and then the pull exercises the next day. For example, push exercises include bench presses for chest and overhead barbell extensions for triceps. Pull exercises include barbell rows for back and dumbbell curls for biceps.
We tend to gravitate toward exercises and stretches that we're familiar with and feel comfortable doing. The problem is your body most likely needs more than this in order to be pain-free and stronger. Your brain which controls bodily movement has learned to move a certain way in order to avoid pain. The problem is that this "certain way" of moving may not be conducive to your health and well-being. You've subconsciously learned to move in a way to avoid pain for better or worse. The end result: your brain has learned to process an abnormal movement as a normal movement as a means to prevent pain. The idea here is to step out of your comfort zone that your brain (and therefore your body) has adapted to for such a long time. The unfortunate aspect of training from one day to the next is that you most likely do not realize you're exercising within your comfort zone. You've become so used to training a certain way that your body has learned to adapt to an abnormal movement pattern. Remember, adaptation is the enemy of progress. A knowledgable personal trainer and/or a physical therapist may be an invaluable resource for you to realize and then learn how to break away from a faulty movement pattern that may be causing chronic muscle pain.
BOTTOM LINE: In addition to performing exercises you like such as the bench press (which precipitates anterior shoulder tonicity), be sure to include exercises you need such as the pec-dec flye (which encourages anterior shoulder flexibility) as well. In addition, be sure to work the core muscles (e.g., glutes, abdominals, lower back and hamstrings) of your body to lessen possible muscle imbalances which may precipitate joint pain and injury. Strengthen weak muscles (typically upper back, abdominals, hamstrings, glutes and abdominals) and stretch tight muscles (typically anterior shoulder, chest, abdominals, lats, lower back, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves). Heeding this advice will save you years of needless chronic pain due to muscle imbalances.
Research (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, April 2013) has indicated that performing static stretches before your workout may inhibit explosive and strength performance. Instead, dynamic or ballistic stretches are recommended before your workout in order to lessen injury risk. Static stretches, in which you hold a stretch for a duration (e.g., 15 to 30s), may actually reduce your performance (i.e., reduce speed and strength) when performed before your workout or athletic event. Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, serve to warmup the muscle tissues via quick extensibility stretches without increasing the risk of injury during a workout. In addition, dynamic stretches elevate heart rate, enhance blood flow and stimulate nerve conduction impulse. Examples of dynamic stretches (think plyometric movements) include jump squats and explosive pushups for the lower and upper body, respectively. An example of a recommended warmup for your hamstrings would be a gentle bouncing bend-and- reach while standing or sitting. This should be followed by the performance of one or more light sets of your beginning exercise such as Romanian deadlifts.
BOTTOM LINE: Perform dynamic stretches before your workout to warmup muscle tendons. Perform static stretches after your workout to cool down muscle tissues.
Knee pain is the most common complaint for people, especially among overweight and/or older adults. In the case of overweight people, the increased load-bearing that's needed for the knee joint can cause knee pain. In the case of older people, knee pain can be a result of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease. In either case, the result is usually inflammation caused by joint aggravation. Inflammation is what causes joint pain. Swollen tissue presses against nerve endings, causing the sensation of pain. Accompanying the inflammation is stiffness and local tenderness at the joint.
The management of acute or chronic knee pain entails the acronym PRICE:
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be used to manage knee inflammation and pain (e.g., Aleve, Advil, Motrin). In addition, Tylenol can be used to control knee pain although it is not as effective in reducing inflammation.
Set up an appointment with a doctor or orthopedist if PRICE and OTC medications fail to lessen knee pain in a week. X-rays and/or CT scans (to detect possible bone fracture or dislocation) or an MRI (to detect possible ligament or tendon injury) may be warranted depending on the nature of the pain and range of motion of the knee joint. In addition, fluid may be drained from the bursae, fluid-filled sacs which cushion the joint, to lessen inflammation and joint pain.
Knee pain as a result of osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic condition since inflammation is persistent due to cartilage degeneration. Activity usually increases knee pain and prolonged sitting results in stiffness. Treatment entails either taking OTC or prescription medications. Joint injections of hyaluronic acid (e.g., Synvisc-One) can relieve chronic pain from OA. Severe cases of OA may require narcotic pain medications or knee joint replacement.
After treatment, you can prevent further pain by:
Many people who exercise may still incur injuries or lack stamina even though they are active. For instance, a runner may pull his or her iliotibial band (ITB) when running because of weakened core muscles or a weight lifter may lack the endurance to run up a series of steps without feeling quite winded. Avid bicyclists may lose bone density due to a lack of impact and resistance on the bone tissue. How can those who perform certain exercises (e.g., running, swimming, biking, weight lifting, etc.) reduce their risk of injury while increasing their overall performance? The solution is to perform well-rounded exercise programs which encompass resistance training, cardiovascular training as well as flexibility.
A comprehensive training program is necessary to enable your body to adapt and withstand multiple stimuli in order for it to perform at its peak level. Thus, runners should perform weight training exercises (i.e., overhead dumbbell presses, squats, lunges, leg extensions, etc.) to strengthen upper body and core muscles and to reduce injury risk. Weight lifters should run, bike and/or swim to increase their endurance and cardiorespiratory capacity. Cyclists should perform weightlifting exercises to maintain bone mass. All active people should perform stretching exercises to increase joint, muscle and tendon flexibility. Yoga can benefit any active person. No one particular exercise should predominate your regime. Instead, complimentary exercises are necessary in order to ensure moderation and balance.
According to a new Australian study of almost a quarter million healthy adults, sitting too much increases the risk of premature death (Archives of Internal Medicine). The greatest risk was for those who sat for at least eleven hours daily--they were 40% more likely to die within 3 years than those who sat less than four hours daily. Prolonged sitting can have adverse effects on health including an increased risk of hypertension, heart attack, abdominal obesity (i.e., a waist size over 40 inches in males and over 35 inches in females may shorten life expectancy by three to five years), chronic kidney disease, some cancers (i.e., colon, breast), decreased HDL (the good cholesterol), increased triglycerides, and elevated blood sugar (which may increase the risk of type-2 diabetes). Type-2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer are inflammatory diseases. Regular exercise can attenuate inflammation and therefore reduce the risk of incurring these lifestyle-related diseases. Exercise may increase your maximal oxygen consumption, decrease your bodyfat, reduce your blood pressure, increase your HDL level, reduce heart attack risk, and increase insulin sensitivity (lessening type-2 diabetes risk).
BOTTOM LINE: Take a short break (just a few minutes) every hour while sitting to get up, stretch, and take a short walk to get the blood circulating. By doing this, you can literally increase your life expectancy.
Because yoga incorporates stretches it has been found to be quite healthy for the body and for the back in particular. For instance, yoga can reduce back pain symptoms and improve functionality. The benefits of yoga are largely attributed to the physical benefits of stretching and strengthening muscles.
Here are just some of the possible benefits of yoga:
The following are good suggestions on how to care for aching muscles after a hard workout without the use of medications:
The best thing you can do for your body is to exercise because moving is good for your back. The purpose of performing exercises for lower back is twofold:
Here are exercises that are NOT RECOMMENDED:
Here are exercises that are RECOMMENDED:
As we all know, mornings are the time when the joints of the body are most stiff as a result of not being warm. But this should not preclude you from striving to stretch out those stiff joints in the morning before getting on with your day. Here's the key: warm up those stiff joints first before stretching. How? Take a nice warm shower or bath after rising out of bed in the morning. This will allow more pliability of the joints prior to stretching them.
Stretches for the Back, Hips and Knees:
Hamstring/Lower Back stretch:
Stretches for the Shoulders and Chest:
Rear Shoulder stretch:
Stretches for the Hands and Fingers:
Nearly 80% of adults will experience some sort of back pain in their lifetime. Back pain is a phenomenon and is therefore not clearly understood because any number of underlying factors may be involved (e.g., unhealthy spinal posture, lifting too much weight, lifting while twisting, sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, etc.). Here's the vicious cycle: poor posture may contribute to back pain which in turn may worsen poor posture. Once your back starts hurting, the vicious cycle begins with the end result being worse posture than before back pain. By the way, the invention of the computer certainly has not helped in terms of improving human posture.
Poor posture is exhibited by misalignment of the cervical, thoracic and/or lumbar curvatures of the spine (e.g., rounded shoulders, protruding buttocks and abdomen, excessive arch of the lower back). This imbalance of spinal alignment may cause associated ligament and muscle strain as well as compressed nerves. Poor posture over the long-term may increase wear on joint surfaces, contributing to the development of osteoarthritis. Thus, to reduce back pain it makes sense to readjust the spinal curvatures into balanced alignment so as to lessen muscular strain and nerve compression.
"I shouldn't do any physical activity if my back hurts"
The above statement is a myth because physical activity can reduce back pain by increasing muscular strength and spinal flexibility. In fact, it may be due to muscular weakness that is a root cause of back pain. If necessary, follow your doctor's recommendation to get one or two days of bed rest only if the pain is debilitating. In general, acute and chronic pain require up to 2 days and 2 weeks of rest, respectively. Be sure to get up and about soon afterward since lying in bed for an extended period of time may actually exacerbate back pain due to increased stiffness. Remember, staying in bed and relaxing is NOT the best cure or treatment for back pain--the sooner you get moving, the better.
SOME BACK PAIN PREVENTION TIPS:
Bottom line: You should make every effort to keep your spine limber and your muscles strong and flexible in order to reduce spinal curvature misalignment and the resulting back pain. Don't let back pain be a deterrent to exercise! Continue exercising but at a reduced intensity level and be sure to stretch regularly.
I highly recommend tai chi, a low-intensity martial art practice, for those who are older. This exercise enhances one's core strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, postural stability, endurance, proprioception, and relaxation--in fact, better sleep is one superb benefit. Other benefits include a reduction in the risk of falls as well as decreased stiffness caused by arthritis.
Other recommended exercises include swimming and walking. Both are good low-impact physical activities that overall are beneficial physiologically (e.g., heart, arteries, muscles, bones, lungs, etc.). Research published in Neurology (2010) has found that walking up to 9 miles per day may increase gray matter within the brain, thus diminishing cognitive impairment. As a result, the risk of Alzheimer's disease can be reduced due to the sparing of brain tissue which normally degenerates during the aging process.
You should spend five to ten minutes warming up as well as cooling down before and after exercise, respectively. Why? Because there are numerous physiological benefits as shown below:
NOTE: Light aerobic exercise (e.g., biking) can dissipate lactic acid buildup within muscles immediately following a weight training session and lessen delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) later.
Cool-down should consist of static stretches (e.g., standing hamstring stretch).The primary purpose of the cool-down is to decrease the temperature of the body, increase lactic acid removal from the muscles, and decrease muscle soreness and stiffness later. You have four choices when it comes to static stretching (i.e., lengthening and holding the stretch of a muscle):
For example, one could perform one set of the incline dumbbell press, stretch, perform another set, stretch again, and so on (option 1); and/or one could perform three sets of the incline dumbbell press, stretch and then move on to another exercise (option 2); and/or one could perform the incline dumbbell press, the incline dumbbell flye, and cable crossovers before stretching (option 3); and/or one could perform exercises for the chest, shoulders and triceps before stretching each of these muscles (option 4). Whichever option you choose is dependent on your preference--either/all method(s) is/are good. It may be more beneficial to stretch sooner for each muscle group exercised (i.e., immediately after a chest exercise) rather than later after the workout for all muscle groups exercised (i.e., after chest, back and bicep exercises). Regardless, the important concept here is to perform static stretching after exercising when the muscles are warm rather than before exercising when the muscles are cold. One word of caution: too much stretching can cause injury. Stretch each muscle for no more than 30 seconds duration and perform each stretch no more than four times per muscle.