Written by Jessica Thiefels
A shocking amount of people experience joint pain in their wrist, knees, elbows and more. In fact:
- As many as 10 million people experience pain from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. (UpstateOA)
- An estimated 52.5 million people were diagnosed with some form of arthritis from 2010-2012. (gov)
- Close to 65 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 experience chronic knee pain. (AOA)
It’s safe to say that many of these people are athletes; perhaps you even fall into one of these categories. Luckily, you can still maintain a rigorous training schedule.
Making a few simple tweaks to your routine will allow you to progress in your programs without causing more pain or harm to your sore joints. Here are a few tips to do exactly that.
Choose Low-Impact Exercises
Low-impact exercises don’t have to be slow, or ineffective in terms of improving strength and ability. They simply alleviate pressure on your joints, allowing you to train, despite the pain. If your joint pain comes and goes, you can turn to low-impact exercises on days when it’s bothering you, and leave them out of your training when it’s not.
Here are a few low-impact exercises and workout formats to try:
- TRX (squats, lunges)
Modify As Necessary
Modifications are important for athletes with joint pain because they allow you to do the same exercise while relieving stress on certain joints. Most exercises have some sort of modification option, so if you aren’t sure, ask a trainer at your gym or another fitness professional you know.
Here are a few modifications for common exercises that can be challenging with joint pain.
Plank: Relieve pressure on your wrists by moving onto your forearms or resting your hands on blocks or dumbbells. This works for almost all variations of planks, from mountain climbers to plank jacks.
Pushups: Relieve pressure on your wrists by moving onto your knees. This reduces the amount of body weight you have to hold up. You can relieve even more pressure by doing wall pushups.
Squats and lunges: To relive pressure on your knees, use a TRX cable. Grab both handles and lower yourself down into the movement like you normally would. Because you’re holding onto something, your joints won’t need take as much of the weight. If you don’t have access to TRX cables, hold onto a wall, which will provide stability for your joints.
Chest press: To relieve pressure on your elbows, bring your arms in, so your elbows are bent next to the side of your body, rather than straight our perpendicular to your body, like this.
Don’t Skip Your Cool Down
The cool down is the most important part of any workout for every athlete, especially if you suffer from joint pain. After a training session, your joints are aching for a little love and attention, and the proper cool down will allow you to give them what they need.
Your cool down doesn’t start when you’re done your workout, however, it starts about 5 minutes before you finish:
Step 1: Ease out of your exercise to slowly cool your joints and muscles with 5 to 10 minutes left in the session. This is similar to your warm-up, where your focus was warming them. This brings your heart rate down and helps your body return to homeostasis.
Step 2: Find a mat and stretch. If you have specific stretches from your doctor of physical therapist, focus on those first. Afterward, try these stretches to relieve knee pain and these ones for osteoarthritis soreness.
Step 3: Use a foam roller to relieve your tight and knotted fascia: “Joint pain can feel worse when your fascia (the elastic, weblike matrix of fibrous connective tissue that supports, binds, or separates your other tissues, joints, and organs), becomes dry and brittle—something that happens as we age,” says Linda Melone, CSCS. Athletes both young and old, however, can benefit from “re-hydrating” their fascia by foam rolling, which stimulates cells and moves fluid back into the tissue. Try these foam roller movements if you’ve never rolled before.
Step 4: Take a hot soak, at the gym or at home. This heat will be relaxing for your muscles and joints, allowing you to fully recover from the workout while reducing future pain.
Athletes with joint pain aren’t out of the game for good. Making small changes to your routine can reduce the joint pain you feel during and after a workout, allowing you to stay strong and progress in your programs.
BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time blogger. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist, and the owner of her own personal training business, Honest Body Fitness. She’s using her experience from writing and marketing to help people get healthy and learn to love what their bodies can do. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for health articles, new workouts and more.