Thursday, October 17, 2013

How to Relieve Joint Pain Exercise or Supplements

Relieving Joint Pain with Exercise and Supplements

Ted Kinsman/Science Source
Suffering from joint pain as a result of osteoarthritis is both debilitating and costly. This has lead to an increase of joint replacement surgery. To avoid progression of degenerative joint disease the advancement of treatment protocols and proliferation of joint supplements and  exercise therapies has resulted in growing services and products. There are many supplements that have been reported to benefit the pain relief and further breakdown of the joint surface.

These supplements, including Chondroitin and Glucosamine, initially trialed on horses, are purported to do both, decrease pain and slow the breakdown of the cartilage surface of the joints.
The idea behind supplements is restoration of the weight bearing surface. There has been research that looks into the benefits of these supplements as a reliable treatment for mild to moderate osteoarthritis and knee pain

Due to the weight-bearing nature of the knees and hips, these joints are particularly sensitive to the loads of daily living. The result is progressive loss of function and performance with activities that include walking, sustained sitting and standing, stairs and bending. The progression of joint pain and functional loss then becomes a source of de-conditioning and potential weight gain. This leads to a cascading effect of diseased actions on the cardiovascular system(heart and circulation), and other systems of the body.

Exercise and weight loss in the aging individual is a proven method of relieving pain and improving functional ability when you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Maintaining healthy weight has a significant impact on reducing the stress to weight bearing joints. Orthopedist +Steven Meier  noted in a post that " for every pound of weight you lose there is a four fold decrease in the stress of each knee ".

There has been further research to support the benefits of Intensive Diet and Exercise for Arthritis:

The combined diet and exercise group also showed reduced knee pain, better function, faster walking speed and better physical health - related quality of life, compare with the exercise only group.

What type exercise will benefit my joint pain?

When it comes to exercise for joint pain related to degenerative changes the bottom line is exercise more. It does not matter what type of exercise you do, Just Do It. 

The primary goals of exercise with degenerative joint changes are:
  • Improve mobility
  • Increase strength and endurance of the muscles
  • Decrease body weight if you are overweight
  • Maximize functional capacity
  • Experience less pain
Increasing strength of the muscles that support the joint provides controlled movement and absorption of joint forces. A body that is able to exercise and move increases vascular supply throughout the body and locally to joint, improving circulation to cartilage. Increasing weight bearing activities also benefits the the skeletal system, increasing body density. This helps to slow the softening of bones, Osteoporosis.

Exercise for joint pain can be applied by varied modes of activity with these goals in mind. 

Walking is a great activity that can be performed to engage the body in an activity, and provides a means of stress reduction. If you have mild to moderate joint pain try using walking poles, or sticks, to provide some relief of excessive joint stress. Using durable trekking poles on uneven terrain provides increased economy and additional calorie consumption over the long haul. On a recent trip on the John Muir Trail, Ron's Trek for Parkinson's, the trekking poles provided the necessary support and protection over the 80 miles that I accompanied my brother as he hiked the complete 210 plus mile journey.

Hiking With Sticks

Riding a bike is another activity that gets you outdoors, and minimizes excess loads to the hips and knees. Riding a stationary bike provides more control over workloads and ensures stability. Perform with light resistance initially, emphasizing revolutions per minute, or RPM's, greater than 70 RPM's. Light resistance with increased RPM's reduces the friction of the joint. Gradually increasing the tolerance of resistance and duration as this will provide an excellent stimulus to muscular strength and endurance that will carry over to you walking ability.

Aquatic exercise provides the benefits of reduced joint compression due to the buoyancy effects provided by the water. Exercising in the water is preferred if you have moderate to severe joint pain. Water activity can be swimming or a movement based program of designed exercises to engage the whole body. There are a variety of water exercise tools that can be used to support and resist your efforts.

There are additional exercises that are great for total body fitness and support for exercising joints that require improved mobility, endurance and balance.

Consult with a Physical Therapist
Physical Therapists are trained in the science of movement and exercise physiology, and how this relates to injury, pain and degenerative processes of the body. A Physical Therapist works closely with your Medical Specialist(Orthopedist) to design an individualized program, educate you on a home program, and progress your program to meet functional goals and return to activity. 
If you have any questions regarding exercise and what you can do to help your joint pain you may contact  +Randy Bauer through my website: Bauer Physical Therapy( or Page at +Bauer Physical Therapy .

Progress to movement based exercises can include Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. These activities, when engaged in a supportive environment are safe and effective modes of exercise, and provide added challenge to maximize your fitness and well-being.

There is much you can do to prevent the progression of joint pain and progression of degenerative changes of the joint. Self-management through intensive diet modification to reduce the effects of body weight on the joint, and an individualized exercise program designed to improve your functional capacity are backed by research. Supplementation, while supporting relief of symptoms of those experiencing pain related to mild to moderate joint changes, does not reverse the degenerative process, and does nothing for improving your functional ability to move and exercise.

Monday, October 14, 2013

How to Perfect the Plank

How to Get the Most Out of Your Plank

Weighted Plank +Wayne Washington 
The Plank is a great all-around core strengthening exercise. If practiced with attention to technique you can perfect the plank without subjecting yourself to injury.

In the Strength Training Lab, the Gym, you will find people performing many varieties of this exercise. Attention must first be given to the Classic Plank that +Neila Rey refers to in her awesome infographic.

The Classic Plank, performed from the forearms and toes, is a preferred technique to avoid weight-bearing on the hands. Performed from the hands, the plank can increase stress of the wrist.

Attention is given to correct posture of the neck, alignment of the spine and positioning of the hips.

If the head is allowed to sag downward stress can accumulate in the neck and upper scapular region of the shoulder blades.

If the back is allowed to sag downward, over accentuating the low back curve, like sway-back horse, stress can increase in the low back region. This can lead to low back pain and aggravation of pre-existing problems in the lumbar (low back) area.

Another common error is raising the butt to high. I refer to this as "teepee butt". Throw a sheet over the back and you have a tent.

Cure the Common Mistakes of the Plank

  • Keep the neck in a straight position with the chin slightly tucked.
  • Keep the back and spine in line with the head in this position.
  • Do not allow the spine to sag by drawing the abdominal muscles inward.
  • Keep the hips at the same level as the spine and head.
  • Breathing, keep breathing. In through the nose, out through the  mouth.

To begin your plank exercise use a timer positioned under your nose. Set the timer at 1-minute. Try to perform the "Classic Plank" exercise for as long as you can maintain good technique. Having a trainer monitor your exercise will provide the added benefit of watching your technique.

Modifications of the Plank

There are a variety of plank modifications that add value to the exercise.

  • Plank with alternating arm lift.
  • Plank with alternating leg lift.
  • Plank with alternating and opposite arm and leg lift.
  • Get ups, moving up and down from the "Classic Plank" position to the plank on hands position.
When you can perform a variety of plank exercises try the Plank 5-Minute Challenge .

The SmartBell Plank

The SmartBell is a 4.5-pound exercise tool that provides great wrist protection with a more neutral grasp. The weight of the SmartBell provides the added benefit of resistance to the exercise. I have used the SmartBell for over 6-years in my Physical Therapy Gym for functional based exercise, core strengthening and sport-specific exercise programs (Baseball, Volleyball, Tennis, Golf). 

For more information on the SmartBell, and how you can use this functional exercise tool for dynamic exercise you may contact me, or leave a comment below and I will get to you.

Perfecting the plank takes discipline and abdominal muscles with a strength base. Build your foundation with perfect form and progressive endurance and you will be ready for the next Plank-off at the gym, or the living room floor. Remember, you are your best opponent.

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