3 Simple Joint Protection Techniques to Keep Your Body Healthy
While building muscle strength and lowering body fat are both important aspects of many workouts, they certainly shouldn’t be your only goals. Regular exercise yields other benefits, like increased mobility, better balance, improved endurance, and faster reaction times. And to achieve all of those, you need to make sure you’re protecting your joints along the way.
Here are three simple joint protection techniques to keep in mind as you work out and as you age:
1. Work Within Your Range of Motion
During a strength training session, you might be tempted to push yourself and call it a challenge, but that can be very detrimental if you’re forcing yourself outside your accessible range of motion, according to Cody Braun, CPT, assistant manager of fitness at Openfit.
“As you gain mobility, you can start to exercise through that newfound range,” he says. “When you force exercises that are outside your strength and mobility capacities, you set yourself up for future problems.”
For example, when one joint doesn’t have enough mobility, the surrounding joints will pick up the slack even when they’re not designed for that, Braun says. Those compensatory movements can cause strain, impingements, and other joint issues.
2. Focus on Stability
Building muscle strength around a joint creates a framework that alleviates pressure on the joint itself. Focusing on areas where that’s most effective can be helpful for improving joint function throughout the body, Braun suggests.
“A solid foundation of core and shoulder stability, as well as glute strength, can minimize the opportunities for joint issues up and down the body,” he says. “Often, people think they need to lift as heavy as possible with as much range as possible, but by working smarter with more control, you can save your joints and get results.”
One way to create more stability and strength without putting stress on your joints is through low-impact workouts, especially those that focus on core strength. For instance, Xtend Barre is a low-impact, total body workout that helps you increase your range of motion and create stronger core muscles.
3. Check In With Your Doctor
Although hearing pops and cracking in the joints is normal, especially for older people, pain and swelling shouldn’t be part of the mix, says Steve Yoon, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician and director of The Regenerative Sports and Joint Clinic at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.
If your joints feel slightly achy, that’s very different than sharp pain or throbbing, along with sudden inflammation and redness that could indicate something may be wrong, says Yoon. That could just be a strain caused by a tendon stretching too much, but it’s also possible to develop a hairline fracture that would get worse without attention. If you experience any acute pain (or soreness that persists for more than a few days), stop exercising and consult your doctor.
“Typically, pain in a joint is an overuse injury, so it’s possible your physician will just recommend a different approach with how you’re exercising, for example,” he says. “But the first step is to see pain as a red flag that should be investigated, to make sure subsequent exercise won’t be making the issue worse.”