How to protect our joints

Throughout our bodies our bones connect at a number of different locations. For example, our shins connect with our thighs at the knee and our hands connect with our arms at the wrist. Every single one of these connections is a joint, which acts as a support mechanism to allow safe and effective movements of our body parts. 

Physical conditions relating to our joints are some of the most common injuries that we find today. Whether it is our joints becoming inflamed over time, more commonly known as arthritis, or a sprain caused by an unfortunate landing. As well as these two, there is also stiffness, strains and dislocation that all relate to our joints.

The 21st century is the most active in human history. More people are exercising regularly and trying to keep in shape. That is great news. The problem with this though is that if we are not educated in the right way then we can suffer severe injuries at much earlier stages in our lives when compared to our ancestors. And that is what’s happening. More people are reporting joint pain at a younger age, especially relating to the joints that bear the most weight – our knees and ankles.

But this does not have to be an inevitability of a more active lifestyle and there are plenty of things that we should be doing to ensure our joints remain intact for as long as possible.

Strength and conditioning is a whole branch of training that specifically relates to preventing injury, especially through its association with physiotherapy. A strengthened and conditioned body is less likely to suffer injury, it is that simple.

I have repeatedly stressed the need for high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but it would be a mistake to confuse intensity with impact. Because unlike intensity, you want to vary high and low impact exercises. For example, things like running and plyometrics are perfect examples of high-impact methods of training. They are both great ways to exercise but you need to find a balance with low-impact exercises too, like swimming for example. This reduces the amount of stress that your joints have to endure over time and will prevent injury in later life.

Think about Blu-Tack for a second. It is pretty easy to manipulate once you warm it up in your hands for a while, right? But try that when it is really cold and it will just snap. The muscles around our joints work in similar ways. You need to be warming up properly before you exercise by stretching. This will make you more flexible and allow your joints a greater range of movement.

Of course I am going to mention nutrition as well. Certain types of diets have been shown to lower inflammation and therefore reduce the risk of getting arthritis as you age. An diet that is more alkaline is believed to have this type of an affect. Foods like avocados, spinach and kale are great for helping your diet to become more alkaline and potentially reduce inflammation.

All of the things mentioned above relate to specific things that we can do to our bodies. Our joints are impacted through external factors too though. So be wary of the terrain that you are running on for example and make sure you have the correct footwear. A shoe needs to be offer stability but you need to make sure that is flexible and cushioned at the same time. Not to mention all of our feet are different and subtle differences in things like the arches of our feet need to be known in order to choose the right footwear.

Were there ever four words that carried as much danger as “no pain, no gain”? Learn to listen to your body, that is the best advice I can give you. Even if you follow everything I have suggested, it cannot stop freak accidents. Injuries will occur. You just have to be able to tell when your body is saying stop.

Ollie Lawrence
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