Joints play a pivotal role in helping individuals maintain a healthy level of activity in day-to-day life. When joint health is impacted, often exercise routines become anything but, and sedentary habits can start to drift back. Maintaining joint health, preventing and coming back from joint injuries can make the difference in continuing a healthy level of fitness by the best thumb brace.
Shortly after I caught the exercise bug, I injured my ankle. Quite severely in fact - bad enough that I was in a rigid foot brace for six weeks and then moved to three different levels of compressive ankle braces as I healed over the following months. The first thing my mind focused on when I landed on the ground and realized the extent of the injury was not the excruciating pain. Honestly - I realized that my daily exercise routine was about to be halted (or at least severely modified) for the next several weeks or even months.
Ask anyone who exercises regularly and they’ll agree that joint pain or injury throws a wrench in their physical activities. When the very activities that are supposed to help make you healthier, when a knee is aching, an elbow twinges or a wrist aches every time you try a push-up or plank, it’s easy to get discouraged and quit the exercise program you’ve started
We can all agree that keeping our joints healthy and moving is essential, but what’s the best advice for keeping all those ‘bendy areas’ functioning as they should?
Eat and Drink Up - What you fuel your body with plays a huge role in proper joint function. Without the right nutrients from food, your body struggles to produce enough synovial fluid, the liquid component that helps joints glide smoothly. And being a liquid, adequate water intake is crucial as well to synovial fluid production. The great thing about a ‘joint healthy diet’ is that it includes many of the same foods that are on the ‘heart healthy diet’. Food and drink like salmon, onions, olive oil and tea all contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can keep joints moving smoothly and help stave off issues like arthritis. Vegetables like dark greens and avocado help you reach your daily veggie requirements while also providing additional antioxidant support for the joints.
Scale Up? - Dropping even just 5% of your weight if you’re overweight can relieve significant pressure on your knees and ankles. If losing weight is overwhelming, take it a step at a time - increase your movement a little each day and try to reduce caloric intake by 250 calories per day for slow and steady sustainable weight loss.
Muscle Up - We know strength training provides benefits like additional calorie burn, great endurance and overall generally feeling stronger, but just like our muscles support our bones, you’d better believe they support our joints too. When you lack good muscle tone and you turn to high-impact exercise, the joints really undergo some serious stress. When you concentrate on strengthening muscles like the quads and hamstrings, those muscles absorb a lot of the high-impact shock and help support the joints. Strong biceps and triceps will help protect your elbows. The caveat to this recommendation? Begin your lifting regimen slowly and with light weights. Overly aggressive lifting can actually make joint pain worse. You may want to consider hiring a personal trainer to get guidance on appropriate lifting techniques and starting weights.
Gear Up - Have you ever heard that soft tissue injuries are more serious than bone breaks? While that’s not entirely accurate, there is truth in that soft tissue injuries (sprains, strains, joint issues) can take longer to heal than bone injuries. Structurally, when a bone breaks, it is repaired with new bone tissue and actually rebuilds stronger than before (one reason why martial artists students can break through layers of boards/rocks/etc - their bones are actually denser than the average individual). With soft tissue, the injury is often either one where the tissue was stretched, and the body has difficulties healing the tissue to its original ‘pre-stretched position’; OR the soft tissue is torn and then resulting scar tissue to heal the injury is less flexible that pre-injury. One way to help the injury heal well is to wear protective gear (or preventative gear!).
A wrist and the best thumb brace, like this one from copperjoint.comcan assist with providing support during pushups and other movements to help prevent overextension; knee pads can cushion a fall that might otherwise do serious damage to the kneecaps; supportive shoes will provide ankle support to prevent sprains. And if you’ve already been injured, wearing support like a thumb brace or elbow brace can help those joints that you use multiple times a day heal quicker. When wearing supportive braces and other support gear, your mind tends to be more cognizant of the movements you make, and hopefully will guide you to both proper mechanics, and a reduction in how often you may make repetitive moves (which in turns helps healing as well).
Ease Up - Not just exercise - texting and typing can fall into this category too! Highly repetitive movements can increase your risk of a joint injury. Here again, wearing a preventative brace (for example a thumb spica brace or wrist support) can stave off overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Varying an exercise routine can also prevent overuse injuries - mix it up! Individuals who ONLY run are more susceptible to overuse injuries than those who mix in other types of cardio where the joints aren’t consistently moved in the same motions and with the same impact. Add some swimming if you’re a runner. Love kickboxing? Add some bicycling to your weekly exercise routine. Constantly doing the same five lifting exercises? Do a little research and find some new weight lifting exercises to add variety. Bonus - you won’t get bored!
Heal Up - This one can be a hard pill to swallow. For those individuals who participate in many activities and for whom movement is a big part of life, sometimes healing means staying still for a while. When a joint has experienced stress to the point of injury, even general movements can exacerbate the injury and delay healing. Follow medical professional orders - if rest is advised, follow through and rest. You’ll be grateful in the end when you’re not laid up quite as long.
Maintaining good joint health will result in both immediate and long-term benefits for your exercise routine and overall health. Stay moving, stay active, stay strong!