2

votes

Strengthening joints and joint health

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created July 13, 2010 at 6:45 PM

For the past week and a half I've been doing quite a lot of natural exercises. I am helping my friend with clearing her land off trees and bushes in preparation for a pasture. That involves a lot of dragging, throwing, heavy lifting, pushing and pulling. I know I am doing great natural, probably quite primal, workout. My muscles are doing great - tired, sore, but no worrisome pain. Unfortunately I have noticed that my joints - shoulders, elbows and wrists are quite quickly tired, hurting and even slightly swollen (one wrist). I am trying to be careful about the movements, not to do any movement obviously risky etc. So why the joints seem so weak? Looks like my muscles are pretty good, strong and ready for quite a workout, but the joints are behind.

What can I do to strengthen and protect my joints better?

47edf681280750c3712a3a56f2eae33b

on January 03, 2013
at 07:00 AM

I freeze liter water bottles then rub in the affected area.

81348acb7b886e2b32ca915d250268f3

(1022)

on October 29, 2012
at 09:11 AM

Increasing muscular strength will help fortify the joints. So, as with any sort of physical activity, when you are first starting out you do have to be careful, once it becomes a regular thing that your body (muscles) can cope with the joints are less prone to damage as the muscles help protect them.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 15, 2010
at 03:32 AM

thanks for really good explanation. I have tried to carry things as much as possible in this relaxed position for wrists, kind of naturally felt it should be the least problematic. I am glad it came naturally. Now I will have some time to relax and work on steady strengthening the joints and all around them.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on July 14, 2010
at 03:23 PM

just googled a minute and found this, which I agree with: http://strong40.blogspot.com/2009/08/high-reps-for-recovery-and-joint-health.html

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on July 14, 2010
at 03:18 PM

Jae, lighter load could mean less strong muscles, although that is not sure (see this paper: http://versita.metapress.com/content/6mw7288174365pg0/ or this write-up from Clarence Bass http://www.cbass.com/LiftingWithEffort.htm). High loads are not necessarily bad for joints, on the contrary, but because of the inherent connective tissue properties, joints need more stimuli, more movement and more time. And you can't do a lot of reps with really high loads, so...

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 14, 2010
at 03:12 PM

thank you! these are really good tips. I can't get a trainer, I simply can't afford it, but I will look into other sources to make sure I move correctly.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on July 14, 2010
at 02:00 PM

Why "higher reps"? Higher reps = lighter load = less strong joints and muscles.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 14, 2010
at 01:24 AM

I always eat the cartilage, since I was a kid. I guess it's not enough :) I will take it easy in the following days, to give the joints time to rest.

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10 Answers

3
89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on July 13, 2010
at 07:16 PM

Joints need a lot of movement, more than muscle, to adapt to a load. They also are typically slower than muscle and cardiovascular condition to improve.

So you probably did too much, simple as that, even though other parts of your musculoskeletal system are doing fine.

Joints get in trouble because of:

  • just simple overload: too much normal movement
  • relative overload: normal load on a biomechanically uncontrolled joint

To give an example for the latter: squats with the knee turning in (medial of the foot) causes rotatory and shear stresses that make the joint fail early. Correct squat form decreases the stress, and thus increases the joint capacity.

Another reeason why your joints are hurting could be the result of training specificity: body tissue adapts very specifically to stress. Especially since your 'natural exercise' is very multi-planar and three-dimensional, and usually 'normal' exercise is more in a single plane.

So how do you strengthen your joints?

By gradually increasing the amount of movement and the load, but with an emphasis on higher reps.

Use 'asymmetrical' and more three dimensional exercises, but be carefull, they are harder for the body to control. The better you get at these, the more your muscles will control your joints, in all possible movements, the less stress the joints will endure.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on July 14, 2010
at 03:18 PM

Jae, lighter load could mean less strong muscles, although that is not sure (see this paper: http://versita.metapress.com/content/6mw7288174365pg0/ or this write-up from Clarence Bass http://www.cbass.com/LiftingWithEffort.htm). High loads are not necessarily bad for joints, on the contrary, but because of the inherent connective tissue properties, joints need more stimuli, more movement and more time. And you can't do a lot of reps with really high loads, so...

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on July 14, 2010
at 03:23 PM

just googled a minute and found this, which I agree with: http://strong40.blogspot.com/2009/08/high-reps-for-recovery-and-joint-health.html

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on July 14, 2010
at 02:00 PM

Why "higher reps"? Higher reps = lighter load = less strong joints and muscles.

81348acb7b886e2b32ca915d250268f3

(1022)

on October 29, 2012
at 09:11 AM

Increasing muscular strength will help fortify the joints. So, as with any sort of physical activity, when you are first starting out you do have to be careful, once it becomes a regular thing that your body (muscles) can cope with the joints are less prone to damage as the muscles help protect them.

2
Dfd71315b44a74520ead7d6752e70fc7

(678)

on July 15, 2010
at 12:15 AM

In the short term, you either need to quit helping your friend or gut it out. I am actually in a similar situation at work where I am doing a lot of work in tearing down a greenhouse but I have to use poor body mechanics simply because they are heavy awkward objects. My elbows and wrists hurt a bit because I have to pick up large pieces of metal/concrete and carry it at an odd angle for my wrists. So your complaints do not fall on deaf ears :o).

In the long term, Jae spelt out a lot of what you can do to help. Scott Sonnon's Intuflow and Pavel Tsatsouline's Super Joints are great programs too. Super Joints is a book, I believe.

You have three types of "muscles" (I am just going to use that term to keep things simple even though it's not 100% accurate). You have real muscles, major movers like your lat or glutes or triceps. These muscles contract or relax and cause muscle movement. Tendons are a connective tissue that connects these muscles to bones and helps in movement. These can get sore but they more often get tight. Your Achilles tendon is a common example and for a lot of newly barefoot runners, it will tighten up hard because of the increased workload. Lastly, you have ligaments which connect muscles to muscle and act as stabilizers. They don't contract or move weight but hold a joint stable to allow the major movers to do their work. Your knee and shoulder (rotator cuff) are two major examples. When you over-extend a ligament, it's not much of an issue. BUT when you over-extend it AND expect it to stablize the joint, THAT'S when you begin to see straining. You suffer from a sprain when the ligament is compromised and it reacts quickly to protect itself. For most people, the tinsel strength of those ligaments is more than the actual power in the major mover muscles so they will rely on the ligaments to provide support in unnatural positions (i.e. shrugging your shoulders up, putting extra stress on your rotator cuff).

In the short long term (I love oxymorons), there are a few things you can be more aware of while doing the heavy work and even going forward. In terms of wrist position, your "neutral" position is when your thumbs point forward. Having your palms facing forward or behind you is actually a flexed position for your wrists, the least stress is when our palms are facing your side. I mention this because when you hold your hand in that position, you can see the natural position of the wrist, upright and not leaning in or out (if your know fitness jargon, the wrist is not in flexion or extension). This is the strongest position for your wrist because it's in a neutral position and the stabilizer ligaments can stabilize at minimal length. In order to protect your shoulder, imagine you are holding a stick in both hands and you snap it in half, putting your wrists into a neutral position. When you feel your shoulder suck down into the socket, that's all "packing your shoulder" and you are allowing the stabilizers (your rotator cuff) to do their job without being compromised. If you have the mobility to use your shoulders in this position, you will actually feel a lot stronger. To avoid hyperextending your elbows, try to keep a slight bend in them when holding something heavy. We had a lot of sore elbows during my EMT training because people kept their arms completely straight during traction spliting.

Lifting heavy weights, even doing partial reps and isometrics, can help strengthen your stabilizers long term but that won't help much today. Keep on keepin on and try to keep good form and eventually the crap work will be done.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 15, 2010
at 03:32 AM

thanks for really good explanation. I have tried to carry things as much as possible in this relaxed position for wrists, kind of naturally felt it should be the least problematic. I am glad it came naturally. Now I will have some time to relax and work on steady strengthening the joints and all around them.

2
77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on July 14, 2010
at 02:47 PM

  • Do some mobility work. MDA did a series of posts on joint mobility that served as a good introduction. If you have the money/time/energy, I would suggest you check out Magnificent Mobility and Inside Out. These guys know their stuff. You can also find a lot of this information for free by Googling "Eric Cressey site:tmuscle.com" or "Starrett site:crossfit.com". Take a minimum of 10 minutes a day to do some mobility work. You will feel a HUGE difference.

  • Ice after any activity that causes joint pain. I dislike ice packs. Here's what I do: wrap a kitchen towel around a large ice cube. Leave half the cube exposed. Rub the ice on your joint for 5 mins, using the back end of the towel to wipe off the water as the ice melts. Repeat every 2 hours, up to 5 times a day depending on how sore your joints are.

  • Make sure you are using correct mechanics. Most people have poor mechanics IMO unless they work with a very good trainer. If you don't have access to a good trainer, you can learn a little bit by reading Starting Strength or by watching videos at http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/excercise.html#Exer. But the best thing is to get a GOOD trainer, not a typical trainer who works at a 24-HR Fitness.

  • Check out the Gokhale method book on posture. If you do the mobility work and some strength training, your posture will improve, but this book was still a very good eye-opener for me. It pulled a lot of pieces together.

  • I'm guessing your diet is pretty good already. Obviously, avoid vegetable oils and grains and sugars, etc.

  • Get plenty of sleep.

  • Supplements to consider: fish oil, magnesium. I'm ambivalent about high-dose fish oil, but I think it has its place in treating acute and chronic inflammation in the short run. In the long run, I tend to side with those that seek to keep total PUFA low (both n-6 and n-3).

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 14, 2010
at 03:12 PM

thank you! these are really good tips. I can't get a trainer, I simply can't afford it, but I will look into other sources to make sure I move correctly.

47edf681280750c3712a3a56f2eae33b

on January 03, 2013
at 07:00 AM

I freeze liter water bottles then rub in the affected area.

1
859c177b2d13a459ae6fb8f4bae8240b

on October 29, 2012
at 08:54 AM

Go to the gym and use a machine that focuses on the joints. For me, I strengthen my wrists with dumb bells. I hang my wrist off the edge of my knee and use a weight while flexing up and down. This is the same concept that will help your joint pain relief. It could also be your shoes. You want a breathable light shoe that absorbs the impact.

1
424563ee2575f0620ea221badabb40d7

(272)

on July 13, 2010
at 09:11 PM

to strengthen and protect, Paleo wise? One example: when eating chicken, consume all the connective tissues, too - like the cartilage on thighs and drums. It's possible that can nourish your own joints. You can buy cartilage in capsules, but this is probably better. Or make stocks and try to get the collagen etc that way.

Otherwise, glucosamine caps might help. Maybe also chondroitin or MSM. Or topical capsaicin to relieve current inflammation.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 14, 2010
at 01:24 AM

I always eat the cartilage, since I was a kid. I guess it's not enough :) I will take it easy in the following days, to give the joints time to rest.

0
1ebbb01a385c9b91a6fe32ab529ee81f

on April 29, 2014
at 02:57 AM

Definitely get a lot of sleep. It may help to do some joint mobility exercises throughout your day, which will get the blood flowing and challenge your tendons (in a good way). I do this about 3-4x per day, even in my work clothes.

0
1ebbb01a385c9b91a6fe32ab529ee81f

on April 29, 2014
at 02:55 AM

Definitely prioritize a good night's sleep. Also, try incorporating some joint mobility exercises into your daily routine. I do them 3-4x per day as a break from work (even in my work clothes!). Gets the blood flowing and gives me a nice stretch.

0
7550959f8a4a685094702d7951433a17

on January 03, 2013
at 06:55 AM

hey yoannah, you could try this approach, 1. Correct exercise 2. Right foods 3. Rest

  1. Correct exercise : I've been reading about the results of tai chi. It improves the flow of blood in the blood vessels through continuous movement helping in joint health. Also any other joint exercise that i have done, i have observed that they give best results when done slowly and steadily.

  2. Here are some foods : Wild Salmon Almonds Papaya Apple Black Beans

  3. Enough rest

0
Medium avatar

on December 05, 2012
at 06:26 AM

Pavel Tsatsouline "Super Joints" and "Relax into Stretch", www.dragondoor.com

Guy knows his stuff.

And while your at it, kettlebells, notably swings, are the most functional and cross discipline applicable exercises known to man, IMHO.

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77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 13, 2010
at 09:47 PM

get more help to lessen the work load.

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