The Best Ways to Prevent Joint Injuries

For athletes and exercise enthusiasts alike, joint pain and joint injuries can be extremely debilitating. The best way to figure out why you may be experiencing these injuries is to take a step back and analyze how you are approaching your workouts. Regardless of age, joint pain and injuries can be common, and measures in prevention should be taken early on.

All athletes know that stretching before physical activity is absolutely central. Stiffness in the joints can not only prevent proper mobility during exercise, but it can lead to further, much more serious injuries. These can be anything from sprains, to dislocations. Depending on your primary workouts, focus on the largest weight-bearing joints when stretching. If you regularly perform squats, these would be your knees. For bench press workouts, focus on primarily stretching your elbows and shoulders. For other weight training exercises, be sure your wrists and ankles are flexible enough to allow for extended movement.

Switch between different forms of cardio to strengthen the joints. Treadmills, ellipticals, plyometrics, and general agility exercises are great for triggering the muscle fibers. However, it’s important to be cautious, as too high of a cardio workout increases the risk of actually damaging the joint muscles. It’s generally best to stick to treadmills on lower speeds, stationary bikes, ellipticals, or swimming if you’re looking to strengthen your joints.

A proper diet is always one of the most effective ways in preventing injuries. Drinking sufficient amounts of water, and consuming anti-inflammatory foods such as nuts, berries, kale, and apples can help tremendously in allowing optimal joint growth. The more weight you have on your body, the more stressed your joints may be, thus displaying the importance of reducing fat as well.

A commonly overlooked part of keeping your joints safe is wearing proper shoes when exercising or playing sports. They provide stability and cushioning for the joints during high-demand activity. Pay attention to the arches of your feet when deciding what shoe is best for you. Depending on whether you have a high arch, normal arch, or flat feet, you’ll either need more or less support. Also, where you foot lands upon leaving the ground plays a large part in the amount of support required as well. A podiatrist is typically the best person to seek when choosing the right pair of shoes.

What many people may not consider is the role levels of stress play in joint health. Whether you’ve had a long, exhausting day or week, controlling stress is very important for your overall health. When the brain releases the hormone cortisol in response to stress, it can reduce the levels of collagen your body produces; a compound that is essentially required for healthy joints. A great way to both combat stress and help your joints is to practice yoga. Doing so can reduce levels of anxiety and improve your mood, while also stretching your joints and muscles.

Joint injuries and joint pain in general can be frustrating. Whether you’re sprinting upfield in a game of soccer, or lightly jogging on a treadmill at the gym, joint complications of any severity can prevent you from performing effectively. Preventing these is the first step in healthy joints, and strengthening them over time is just as important.

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