Joint Pain: Causes and Prevention

Stress fracture. Lower back strain. Tennis elbow. These injuries are never fun to deal with, but studies show that most women will experience a chronic pain causing injury at some point in their lives. It doesn’t matter if you are a workout fiend or avoid the gym at all costs, something is bound to knock you off your feet sooner or later. There are some simple stretches and strengthening exercises you can do regularly to prevent some of these injuries.

Here are some common injuries, whether you’re an athlete or not, and how to avoid them.

Stress fracture

Stress fractures can be triggered by basketball, soccer and running, among other things. If the muscles surrounding your bones are not sturdy enough to absorb the shock of repetitive pounding, your bones become more prone to snapping. These kinds of fractures characteristically occur in the feet or lower legs, which bear the impact of your weight when you exercise. If you have a stress fracture you will most likely experience pain, swelling and tenderness that becomes more intense over several weeks or months. It is unlikely that you will need a regular cast, but a walking cast or crutches might be recommended to keep pressure off of the bone. Stress fractures can be prevented by strengthening the shock absorbing calf muscles. To do this, stand on the edge of a step and slowly stand up onto your toes, then lower your heels back down until they hang below the step.

Do 10 reps three times a week.

Shoulder impingement

A shoulder impingement can be caused by swimming, yoga, tennis, or anything else that requires you to use your shoulder muscles. Women tend to have looser connective tissue than men, therefore the tendons and muscles that allow for a wide range of motion, known as the rotator cuff, has to work hard to stabilize the joint.

If repetitive overhead movements irritate the cuff, it can get pinched, or impinged, beneath the shoulder blade. If this has happened you will feel a dull ache that becomes sharper when you reach above your head or put weight on the joint. Physical therapy can relieve stress on the rotator cuff by strengthening the surrounding shoulder muscles. Prevent it by building a stronger cuff. Lie on your left side and bend your knees slightly. Hold a lightweight barbell in your right hand and rest your upper arm on your side and the weight on the floor in front of you, ensuring that your elbow is bent at a 90 degree angle. Lift the weight and rotate your shoulder so that the barbell is perpendicular with the floor. Repeat this 10 times on each side three times a week for results.

Low back sprain or strain

Pain the low back can be triggered by a number of things, including golf, lifting heavy objects and Pilates. If these muscles are overworked or stretched beyond their limit in any direction, the injury can be excruciating.

The pain usually worsens over 24 hours and can be accompanied by muscle spasms. Take over the counter painkillers to ease the pain and ice the injury to reduce inflammation. If the pain has not subsided after 48 hours or if you being to feel numbness or weakness in your butt or legs, be sure to see your doctor. He or she may recommend x-rays to rule out disc injury. To avoid this type of injury, it is important to maintain a strong core. Working out the abdominal muscles will stabilize the back, and vice versa. To work out these muscles, try laying on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat against the ground and your arms at your sides, palms down. Raise your butt and lower back off the floor so that your chest, abs, hips and upper legs are in line with each other. Hold this position for five seconds. Do five reps three times a week.

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