Dec 12, 2017

Playing Sport and Keeping Physically Active: Why Looking After Your Joints is Vital

Playing Sport and Keeping Physically Active: Why Looking After Your Joints is Vital

In sporting circles, there's a common misconception that activity wears out joint cartilage. While sportspeople might experience joint pain, there’s no evidence to suggest that healthy exercise wrecks joints. In this article, we look at how people who play sports and are physically active can maintain good joint health.

Joint related problems

Here are common diseases that give rise to joint pain, but they are not directly attributed to sports.

Osteoarthritis

A type of arthritis that is most commonly seen in older people. Osteoarthritis happens when surface cartilage breaks down, leaving the bones to rub together. Effects include:

  • Loss of motion
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Osteoarthritis can be triggered by an injury or failure to adequately treat an injury.

Rheumatoid arthritis

An autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks tissues of the joint, thinking they are germ cells. The result is pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function. While sportspeople might experience rheumatoid arthritis, it's typically not related directly to sport.

Gout

Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joint. This most commonly occurs in the big toe joint. Medical professionals can typically treat gout.

Other forms of arthritis

Infections and diseases can cause arthritis, including lupus, fibromyalgia and psoriasis. Additionally, juvenile arthritis, which occurs in younger people, may arise from sports related injuries or infections.

Breaking down the myths about cartilage and joint damage

There's a lot of misinformation around joint health. Talk with an older sportsperson and they might tell you that their joints are 'wearing out’. While it's tempting to think of the cartilage in our joints as having a limited number of 'uses’ the science shows this is simply not the case.

The cartilage in your joints isn't like printer ink. It doesn't get 'used up’ just because you are more active. Rheumatologist Professor Patrick O'Neil tells ABC Health:

“It's a myth to make the general statement that exercise is bad for your joints or actually wears your joints out. There's no evidence for that."

So while osteoarthritis does occur in sportspeople, it's not the exercise itself that necessarily causes joint cartilage to erode, but rather injuries, impacts and other issues that sometimes occur during sport.

Exercise is good for you

Exercise, done correctly, is good for your health, including your joint health. Some of the benefits you get from exercise that are directly related to joint health include:

  • Good flexibility and joint mobility
  • Improved muscle strength around joints
  • Decreased pain in problem areas

So if joint cartilage isn't like a battery and exercise is good for joint health, why does sport and exercise seem so linked to joint problems like osteoarthritis?

Sport needs to be played properly

Sports injuries are common among athletes. Even people who only play sport for fun are still at risk of muscle pain, joint damage and other injuries.

But hold on, isn't sport good for your joints?

It is, but only if it's played properly and carefully. Here is a short list of just some of the ways sport can lead to joint problems:

  • Not warming up properly or failing to stretch
  • Doing repeated movements incorrectly or in a way that places extra strain on your body
  • Wearing the wrong equipment, shoes, gear or failing to wear protective equipment
  • Injuries from accidents and high impacts
  • Not taking corrective measures to heal injuries.

Sport can lead to injury or damage, but that doesn't mean your joints days are numbered. Most injuries can be healed with proper medical treatment, and there are even ways you can improve joint health through proper diet and exercise.

Improving joint health through exercise

Everyday exercise can play a part in improving your joint health. Take the following steps when exercising. You should notice improvements almost immediately.

  • Balance cardio to be low and high impact
  • Use dynamic and static stretching in your warmup
  • Improve nutrition to lower body fat and inflammation
  • Wear the right shoes to support your type of foot
  • Maintain good posture
  • Don't remain static throughout the day
  • Know what you enjoy and don't push too hard
  • Reduce stress in your life.

Treating pain points

Flexiseq offers lubrication in joints affected by wear and tear of cartilage, reducing friction between moving parts in the joint and, hence, reducing pain. Sporting injuries can be treated to prevent ongoing joint issues. If you suffer from sport related joint pain talk to your medical professional about how Flexiseq can be integrated into your recovery program.

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