Joint Pain Causes and How to Get Relief
No pain, no gain. Suck it up. Deal with it.
If you’re like me, you heard this a hundred times over when you were younger. Maybe the children of the early 80’s were the last generation to have that old school, toughen up upbringing – or maybe this is the case of getting older and seeing the advantages of this current generation that I never had the luxury of experiencing.
But it’s also something that we associate with exercise. Sure – a tough workout is something that you should always be proud of, but when pain predominates your everyday life, then what do you do? More and more clients I run into have several issues and many have run the gauntlet as to what the cause it. After all, 80% of Americans experience a form of low back pain some point in their life (1). Unfortunately, many in the medical community have thrown their hands up in the air as to what causes this pain and more importantly, what can eliminate it. Here’s how a typical conversation with your doctor might go:
“Hey patient, what brings you here?”
“Well Doc, my shoulder’s hurt”
“Oh….well, when do they hurt?”
“When I lift my arms above my head”
“Okay…..well, don’t do that anymore”
With that you’re out the door and still living a life filled with aches and pains. Many won’t start an exercise program for fear that they’ll bring more pain into their life, or the doctor’s advice warned them against doing anything that causes those aches. But it’s the pink elephant in the room – pretending the pain isn’t there won’t do anything about it. Everyone should know about their join pain causes and what they can do to fix it.
The biggest way to deal with pain is to try and build structural balance. This means that all your muscles are equal in their strength ratios; if one muscle is too strong or too weak in comparison to another, you can experience a lot of pain. For example, people who have knee issues usually have weak hamstrings (the muscles in the back of the thigh) compared to the quadriceps (the four muscles in the front of the thigh). Just to show you how technical this issue can be, three muscles make up your hamstrings and you can have weakness issues between all three. If you have a knee issue, it’s likely that your ankles and hips are experiencing problems and causing pain at the knee. The problem is that when you complain about knee pain, everyone looks at your knee. Your best bet to fixing this issues is to have someone who understands posture and the strength ratios between muscle groups.
Lastly, resist the urge to train the same muscles over and over again. More often than not, people have “mirror muscle” syndrome: meaning they only train muscles that they can see. This means biceps, chest, and abs. Everyone loves to train their abs, and I dare someone to find me a male who isn’t intrigued to do some bench and curls. However, doing too much of the same thing in the gym is a recipe for disaster.
But a balanced exercise program can work. Subjects who used only kettlebells in their training were able to reduce back pain by 57% (2). They also lowered their level of neck pain by 46% by only training three days a week; each workout was only 20 minutes. Even people with joint replacements can improve their quality of life by starting a training program. Subjects who worked out for 13 weeks improved their strength while having a total knee replacement (3). During the process, they actually increased the intensity of their workouts by 5 to 10% several times. Try a balanced workout in which you train every muscle group. You also want to focus on more pulling exercises; so for every set of bench presses you do, you want to knock out two sets of rows.
Is pain in your everyday life fun? Of course not. Is it something that you can manage with a smart and sensible approach? You betcha – all you need to do is toughen up a bit.
1. Clark, Michael. Lucett, Scott C. “The Rationale for Corrective Exercise.” NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training Baltimore; Maryland: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2011: pp 3
2. Jay, K. Frisch, D. , et al. “Kettlebell Training for Musculoskeletal and Cardiovascular Health: a Randomized Controlled Trial.” (2011) Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health. 37(3), 196-203
3. Ciolac, Emmanueal Gomes. D’Andrea Greve, Julia Maria. “Muscle Strength and Exercise Intensity Adaptation to Resistance Training in Older Women with Knee Osteoarthritis and Total Knee Arthroplasty” (2011) Clinics 66(12), 2079-2084