Joint discomfort is a common issue among athletes as well as sedentary people. Ranging from common issues like arthritis to tendonitis and soft tissue tears. There are many ways to look at these types of issues. From the bodies inner environment, i.e. the hormonal and anti inflammatory body environment that could support a healthy and robust connective tissues. Or a bodily environment that would break and degrade them.
To the type of movement a person performs throughout his day to day activities, the level of coordination of his body and how he aligns himself biomechanically. How balanced is his physical activity? Does the resistance load impact his system in a balanced and gradual manner?
In this article we will be looking more into the movement side of the equation. Having pain free joints is the natural way to be. The majority of people that move correctly, have a balanced practice that is put together with all the correct variables, as well as eating correctly, should not experience chronic joint pain. Our bodies should be able to naturally heal any acute damage to the joint structure, as well as any other structure in our body.
A pain, any type of pain, is the alarm the body activates when trying to tell us that something is wrong. Healthy people should not experience pain other then injuries here and there. And if they do experience it they should be questioning their health. This is a pretty simple concept, and is the one thing to look at when things stray from the natural way and into the zone of pain, and specifically here, joint pain.
Manipulating weights isn't a less natural way of moving than bodyweight training. Both ways could cause joint pain when full consideration of variables isn't taken into account. The main difference between the two is that with bodyweight training you are manipulating your own body against other objects. As such, you can create various levels of resistance, and develop strength in relation to your own body weight, in alignments that will translate well to moving your body in space.
Both styles of training should be looked at from the standpoint of joint preparation. If you are about to start training toward the Iron-Cross exercise on the Gymnastics Rings, you should prepare your shoulders and elbows for the specific load that will be placed on them, as well as the muscle mass to support that effort. Failure to do so could lead to bad injuries in those joints. This type of approach of course will apply to martial arts, dance, and any field of movement or specific demands on the body.
Similarly, if you are about to undertake exercising at the local gym, you should ask yourself if your joints are stable enough to take on a high load that you might be desiring. Loading a lax joint heavily might compromise its integrity. A joint focused type of work should be incorporated, prior and as you are increasing your loads.
When it comes to joint pain in training, it usually comes from people wanting to develop muscle and strength through the different methods, without giving extra thought to the condition of their joints.
When loading a muscle, the load also falls on the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone, and on the ligament that connects one bone to another. The problem is that those connective tissues respond differently to resistance than the muscle.
For a muscle to grow stronger it takes a high level of resistance intensity and a relatively smaller number of repetitions. For a connective tissue to strengthen, it takes a smaller resistance (especially when the load is directed at the connective tissue and less on the muscle), and much more repetitions. And that difference in structure and response to resistance, is where problems many times start. The reason being is that a muscle fiber has tissue that has the ability to contract and expand against resistance, and that is it's ability to induce action, while using nutrients and body materials as energy sources. The connective tissue doesn't have this type of active contracting ability, instead its a tissue that has various percentages of collagen, which makes for a gradual elasticity versus solidity along the course of its tissue.
At the higher levels of resistance, sufficient joint strengthening should be taking place, as you can't build a strong muscle on a weak joint. This type of preparation is task specific, as strength is task specific as well. And it should be achieved in the direction of the strength that is about to be developed.
At the lower levels of functionality, a more general approach should be incorporated to challenge the ligaments of the body in multiple directions, challenging their strength, elasticity, and endurance, preparing for day to day chores.
Naturally this type of approach could help prevent a later in life occurrence of arthritis, and prevent the need for rehabilitation type of work for people with degraded joints, as it will thicken the connective tissue, and make it better suited to deal with the daily stresses.
Some of the common practices in relation to joint pain are ultrasound, various types of specific massage technics as well as medications, and heat pads. These are all passive approaches, while they could help with removing inflammation, and reducing the pain. They will not build a stronger and thicker connective tissue, and therefore will not fix the problem on a longer term basis.
Only correct resistance, active work can make the body adapt in a way of strengthening the joints, and putting connective material where it's needed for a better function. And that should be done coupled with a correct nutritional approach in order to minimize inflammatory processes, and provide sufficient building blocks for the tissue.
This type of material and work can be found at the Fundamentals of Movement system. Contact us as at FundamentalsOfMovement.com for information, online training programs, and one on one training and seminars.
You can find a slighty modified version of this article that I published on 'Onnit' online magazine here: