Joint pain affects a staggering amount of people.
Recent estimates indicate that as many as 91 million U.S. adults may have some form of arthritis, which also happens to be the leading cause of disability.
You, yourself, may have experienced joint pain in some form or other over the course of your lifting career.
Today, we look at joint pain -- what it is, common causes of joint pain, and ways to improve symptoms of joint pain.
Let’s start at the top.
What is Joint Pain?
Joints are areas where 2 or more bones meet.
Major joints of the body include:
Joint pain, as you probably guessed, refers to discomfort, aches, or soreness in any of the body’s joints.
As we mentioned at the start of this article, joint pain is very common, but it doesn’t always require a trip to the hospital.
Next, we’ll cover the 5 common causes of joint pain.
Common Causes of Joint Pain
The most common cause of joint pain is arthritis, which comes in two forms:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Researchers note that osteoarthritis is most common in adults over 40 years old.
Arthritis progresses slowly and usually affects the most heavily used joints, such as the:
Osteoarthritis-induced joint pain occurs as a result of cartilage breakdown in the joint. Cartilage serves as a cushion and shock absorber for the joints.
The other form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects ~1.5 million Americans and is more prevalent in women than men.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation, pain, and fluid buildup in the joints as an individual’s immune system attacks the membrane that lines the joint.
Another leading cause of joint pain is overuse.
While we all enjoy pushing the limits of our body and mind with hard training, we also need to realize the importance of downtime and recovery as well.
Remember, in the gym is when you are breaking down your body. It is outside of the gym when we’re resting that our body recovers, rebuilds, and grows stronger, more resilient.
Pushing too hard for too long and too often impedes recovery and can lead to excessive wear and tear.
This eventually results in overtraining, potential injury, and joint pain.
The reason for this is that connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments recover at a slower rate than skeletal muscles.
So, while your muscles might feel fresh after a day or two off, the ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissue may not be fully recovered.
This is why rest and recovery are so important as well as the need to take a deload week every once in a while.
Improper Exercise Execution
We’ve hammered home the importance of using proper form countless times on the blog for a variety of reasons.
Namely, it makes for a more effective workout while also reducing the likelihood of injury or strain.
Using proper exercise form and selecting an appropriate weight for your strength and skill level also keeps your joints healthy.
Lifting with poor form is a sure fire way to grind your joints to dust.
Don’t believe us, just imagine doing some heavy squats and allowing your back to round or heels come off the ground as you descend into the hole. Doing either of these puts your low back at risk and places a tremendous amount of shear stress on the knee joint.
If you’re serious about lifting for the long-term, keep your ego in check, and make it your mission to use perfect form each and every rep you attempt in training.
Imbalances occur as a result of the muscles on one side of the body being considerably stronger than the ones on the opposing side.
The quintessential example of muscle imbalances, especially in male trainees, is the chest and back.
Guys love to bench press and overhead press (both of which focus on the pushing muscles on the front side of the body). Sure, they’ll train their back with a few sets of pulldown, but usually not with the intensity or volume they attack the front sides of their body.
This leaves them wielding a formidable front “shield”, but a rather weak backside, which sets them up for a host of shoulder pain issues as well as horrendous posture.
To help avoid joint pain due to muscle imbalances, it’s critical to train your body in a balanced manner. Do one pulling exercise for every pushing movement. Do one hamstring movement for every quad movement. Do one bicep exercise for every tricep exercise.
Organizing your training in this manner will help you stave off muscle imbalances and build a more balanced, aesthetic physique.
If you presently have a noticeable muscle imbalance, dial back the volume of the dominant muscle group (i.e. lower the number of sets you’re doing for chest), and amp up the volume and intensity of the lagging muscle group (i.e. do more rowing and vertical pulling).
Though we can do our best to fight him, Father Time always wins.
Yes we can stave off the decline by exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep, but even when doing everything by the book, the body will begin to wear down the older you get.
An unfortunate by-product of aging (besides wrinkles, gray hair, looser skin, etc.) is creaky, achy joints.
Part of the reason for this is that collagen synthesis declines as we age. As you might recall, collagen is the main structural protein of the body and is heavily involved in the maintenance of cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue.
Reduced collagen synthesis means it takes longer for the vital structures to heal and repair. This is why it’s important to eat collagen rich foods, or use a high-quality collagen supplement daily, such as 1UP Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides.
1UP Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides supplies 20 grams of Grass Fed Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides per serving which supports your body’s natural collagen production.
How to Prevent Joint Pain
Make Sure to Warm Up and Cool Down
In our excitement to get to work straight away in the gym, many of us forego a proper warm before hitting the heavier weights.
We urge you to do a proper dynamic warm up (including several warm up sets) prior to going heavy. Not only does this warm up your muscles and increase synovial fluid to the working joints (making them move better), it also primes the nervous system so that you can perform to the best of your abilities.
At the end of your workout, take a few minutes to cool down and stretch out any tight or sore muscles.
Balance Your Training
As we mentioned above, muscle imbalances are one of the key contributors to joint pain for gym goers.
Therefore, one of the ways to prevent joint pain is to balance your training.
For every set of pushing, do a set of pulling.
For every set of squats or leg press, make sure to do a hamstring-dominant movement like leg curls or Romanian deadlifts.
An easy way to do this is to follow a structured resistance training program, one designed to train your entire body from head to toe.
We provide a customized and balanced training plan to everyone who signs up for our transformation challenge.
Take Rest & Recovery Seriously
Hard training breaks down your muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue. While hard training is required to force your body to adapt and grow stronger, you need to give it enough down time to recover sufficiently.
This downtime is important not only for your muscles, but also important for your joints, ligaments, and connective tissue.
Rest and recovery start with getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night and also engaging in active recovery modalities like stretching, walking, yoga, etc.
Recovery is highly individualistic and can vary greatly from one person to the next. So while you might recover very quickly from hard training, your training partner might recover a bit slower or vice versa.
Listen to your body and give it the time it needs to rest and recover.
Chronic stress leads to inflammation. Long term inflammation can lead to joint degradation as well as a whole host of other health issues.
Keeping inflammation in check begins with eating a well-rounded diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
The foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and polyphenols which combat oxidative stress and limit the spread of free radicals, which contribute to the growth of inflammation in the body.
You might also want to consider supplementing with a high-quality Omega-3 supplement if you don’t eat enough fatty fish as omega-3s will help reduce inflammation. 1UP Omega-3 supplies a full two grams of High Strength Omega Rich Fish Oil Concentrate per serving.
Reducing inflammation not only benefits joint function, but also the health of your gut, brain, and cardiovascular system!
The Bottom Line on Joint Pain
Joint pain is incredibly common and can have multiple causes, including age, inflammation, overuse, and improper exercise form.
Dealing with joint pain can make even simple everyday tasks like walking the dog a royal pain.
Use the tips in this article to help prevent or limit joint pain from happening so that you can enjoy a productive training career, and more importantly a pain-free life!
- Updated estimates suggest a higher number of U.S. adults with arthritis. (2018, June 25). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.https://www.niams.nih.gov/newsroom/spotlight-on-research/updated-estimates-suggest-higher-number-us-adults-arthritis
- Diseases and conditions osteoarthritis. (n.d.). American College of Rheumatology.https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Osteoarthritis
- Liu, S. H., Yang, R. S., al-Shaikh, R., & Lane, J. M. (1995). Collagen in tendon, ligament, and bone healing. A current review. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, (318), 265–278.