Fixing Joint Pain
Correcting Muscular Imbalances and Dysfunction
Note: This article does not present a cure for arthritic patients nor chronically damaged joint pain that is beyond repair. However, some pain may be relieved in damaged areas by following the steps presented. Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise or therapy program.
Do you have joint pain? Does it hurt to get out of bed in the morning? Is your shoulder still bothering you from an old injury?
Do you know that you can likely fix your nagging pains?
Let me teach you how…
“Muscle and Joint Pain can be one of the most bothersome forms of injury…because it just never seems to go away.”
Muscle and Joint Pain can be one of the most bothersome forms of injury; not because of the pain level, but because it just never seems to go away. Everyday it seems to remind you of its presence, and can stop you from even trying things that you want to do for fear of making the pain worse. What most people don’t know, or realize, is that most of these issues can be fixed rather easily.
The cause of most muscle and joint pain is often due to either a muscular imbalance, or muscular dysfunction. A muscular imbalance is when you have a greater pull on one side of a joint, compared to the other side of pull; making for a misalignment of that joint, which then leads to muscular fatigue as well as joint pain.
“You can either feel a little pain everyday for a long time, or feel a lot of pain over a few minutes and be healed.”
This can happen in any of your joints, but the easiest example to understand is likely the elbow joint. The elbow joint can only flex and extend in a linear movement plane. To keep it simple, the biceps muscle group flexes the arm while the triceps muscle group extends the arm. Each muscle has a certain amount of pull depending on its strength. While at rest, both of these muscles pull on the elbow joint (Ulna & Humorous) towards their distinct direction. If one of these muscle groups has a much stronger pull than the other, due to it’s overall strength in comparison to the other, it will cause the opposing muscle to fatigue faster and start to pull the joint out of place. If the bones are moved out of optimal position, then they start grinding against one another in the joint causing damage and pain. This can also lead to muscular dysfunction due to changing the angle of pull of the muscles.
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Lets say the biceps muscle group has a weaker pull on the elbow joint due to a lack of training volume. The bicep will be constantly fatigued as its fighting against triceps trying to pull it back in place while being pulled out of its optimal position, on top of that. This increases muscular dysfunction which is when a muscle does not function properly due to fatigue, damage or underuse. Weak muscles fatigued very quickly and can no longer perform their function optimally leading to further damage.
Damaged muscles occur from trauma, such as a tear or impact. Underused muscles are muscles that are under utilized causing them to fatigue quickly. To avoid muscular dysfunction make sure to train all areas of your body to stay healthy and moving properly. When you push you should also pull. If your pull is not as strong as your push then try to make up for it by doing double the training volume with pulling motions to stay healthy. Do the same for other opposing movements or muscle groups.
“So how do we correct it?”
Now that we know about some of the problems associated with muscular dysfunction, how do we correct it? Correcting most muscular dysfunction is fairly simple, while some take a lot more attention. For many basic muscle and joint pains, you can simply just start by making sure to train all muscle groups surrounding the joint relatively equally. For the elbow joint this means making sure to do plenty of curling motions if you are doing a lot of tricep work or pressing movements and visa versa. For the shoulder make sure to do a lot of rowing or pulling movements along with all of your pressing movements and visa versa. You want to try and double the total training volume of pulling motions versus pressing motions. This will require less weight, but more sets and reps. Also, do the same with other joints such as the hips, knees, ankles and wrists. Always train the weaker muscle group more to help build it up. Sometimes just training those underutilized muscles will fix the muscular dysfunction or joint pain, while other issues may need more attention.
“Always train the weaker muscle group more to help build it up.”
Along with training all muscle groups, one of the first things you should do when correcting muscular dysfunction is loosening tight muscles through massage or stretching techniques. If a muscle is tight and causes you pain, it is likely fatigued and under stress, so stretching it would be putting you at risk of tearing that muscle. The best thing to do in this situation is massage or use self-myofascial release techniques to help relax the muscle while mobilizing it to function properly until the pain goes away. With this you also want to loosen the other surrounding muscle groups that may be pulling it out of position so that the muscle will be more willing to relax. Then train the weak muscle group to improve its strength and function. For muscles that are simply tight, you can also utilize self-myofascial release techniques or simply stretch that muscle, telling it to relax or release. This will not make the muscle weaker but rather improve its function.
“The most important piece of decreasing joint pain is improving your structural integrity.”
The most important piece of decreasing joint pain is improving your structural integrity. Structural integrity is placing the bones and joints in proper anatomical position so that they move smoothly about each other within the joint. This is the most beneficial piece to improving your joint pain. Proper alignment can only occur, however, if you have the necessary mobility and strength in the surrounding muscle groups to stabilize the bones so they are in their optimal position, even during movement. At rest we may feel fine, but after adding a load or doing a weighted movement the overly powerful muscle groups may pull the bones out of proper anatomical position causing pain. The only way to correct this is through loosening, or lengthening the tight powerful muscles while also building strength in the weaker muscle groups so that they work together relatively equally. This will take time, especially for chronic pain, but it can likely be fixed with proper dedication.
It just takes a little bit of time everyday for you to make a difference in your joint and muscle health.
So, with just a little bit of effort and dedication to treating your nagging pains everyday you too can be pain free! It just takes a little bit of time everyday for you to make a difference in your joint and muscle health. Take 10-20 minutes everyday and work towards mobilizing your tight, dysfunctioning or damaged tissues in order to become pain free. Also, if you have muscles that need to be strengthened, try working on improving their strength and function everyday by doing light exercise focusing on getting the muscle to work. You can use a band or light dumbbell and try doing 100 total repetitions of some exercise that focuses on working that muscle specifically. Do it slow and under control which will force the muscle to activate better. This will greatly improve your muscular function and overall strength as you will likely avoid a future injury by doing this. Work on improvement everyday and control the things that are holding you back, such as daily pain. Go make a difference in your health today and feel no pain!
“This will greatly improve your muscular function and overall strength…”
As a final note, realize that much of this is going to hurt even more than it does on a daily basis. When correcting most muscular injuries or soft tissue dysfunction you must withstand greater pain to correct it. You can either feel a little pain everyday for a long time, or feel a lot of pain for 10 minutes a day over the course of a week or so and be healed. The choice is yours…
For more help on how to mobilize your soft tissues look HERE!
Keep getting STRONGer my friends!
Strength to you,
The STRONGer Coach– Ryan Mathias, CPT
Owner and Creator
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