Three ways to eliminate joint pain by Scott Masson
posted on 18/02/2016 11:34:00 PM
Tendon, ligament and joint injuries can have a devastating effect on any fitness regime, taking months to repair and even longer to fully rehabilitate. In fact, according to a recent survey of almost 1000 athletes, these kinds of injuries account for more time away from training than any other factor.
While it’s true that a strenuous exercise regime will put a lot of stress on your joints and connective tissues, these tips will help you reduce your risk of developing serious injuries, which could in turn derail your training regime.
1. Increase your load slowly
UKBFF competitor, nutritionist and personal trainer Jordan Cadoresays that your tendons and ligaments only receive a small fraction of the blood flow compared to your muscles. Therefore, while your muscles can repair themselves quickly, your tendons don’t get the same amount of nourishment, which is why conditions such as tendonitis take so long to heal.
Because tendons repair and strengthen much more slowly than muscles, it is critical you carefully control the rate at which you increase the intensity of your training regime. Although your muscles are able to handle the extra stress of more weight, your tendons may not be able to. A good example of this is the high rate of tendon injuries1among those who use steroids, as the increase in muscle strength while on steroids far outpaces the increase in tendon strength during that time.
Over time, too much stress on your connective tissue can lead to chronic injuries such as tendonitis and ligament tears, so it’s important that you slowly increase exercise intensity in smaller increments.
2. Give yourself time to repair with deload weeks
Because your soft joint tissues require much more time to recover than your muscles, it’s also a good idea to give them more time to repair. However, balancing rest time with an intensive exercise regime can be a bit of a tightrope walk.
Bodybuilders and powerlifters maintain fitness levels while giving their joints a rest with deload weeks. During deload weeks, bodybuilders dramatically reduce the amount of weight they lift, usually lifting only 50 to 60 per cent of their usual load. Therefore, their joints get a rest from heavy loads, but their muscles still get some stimulation.
Any athlete can adopt a similar strategy. For example, runners can reduce their distance for a week or, even better, diversify their training and spend a week swimming, cycling or doing weight circuits to keep fit while resting joints such as their knees and ankles.
Some fitness experts advocate having a deload week as often as every four weeks, while others say a couple of times a year is enough. Work out for yourself how often you need a deload by listening to your body and how your joints feel.
As an added bonus, deload weeks have also been shown to improve motivation, so you’ll come back from your week away rearing to go.
3. Nail your micronutrients
Athletes are obsessed with macronutrients, and with good reason: eating the right balance of protein, carbs and fats is the single most important aspect of any training regime in any sport. However, what far too many people neglect to pay attention to is micronutrients, which are fundamentally important for general health as well as good joint health.
You can give your joints a boost by supplementing your diet with the following vitamins, minerals and nutrients:
- Glucosamine and chondroitin are essential for strong joints and have been shown to increase the rate of repair for your connective tissues.
- MSM is another popular supplement that helps your body repair micro-tears and the small injuries your joints pick up during training.
- Vitamin C has been shown to expedite tendon and cartilage repair.
- Fish and flaxseed oil have long been known to help lubricate joints.
- Multivitamin pills are an essential supplement for anyone living an active life. Good multivitamins include zinc and magnesium; deficiencies of both can worsen joint problems.
1 Michna, H. (1987). ‘Tendon injuries induced by exercise and anabolic steroids in experimental mice’, International Orthopaedics, 11(2): 157-62.
Scott is a writer and content marketer based in London. His work has been featured in the Guardian, Daily Mail and British Library, to mention a few. He is an avid powerlifter and distance cyclist, and when he’s not writing, he spends his free time learning Mandarin.