Joint pain after a workout is nothing to sneeze at. You don’t want to brush it off or tell yourself, “No pain, no gain.” Joint pain may be caused by a serious injury. Even if the injury isn’t serious, if you don’t give it time to heal you can develop chronic joint inflammation and overuse injury.
If you have joint pain with swelling, bruising or excessive tenderness, you probably should see a doctor. Early treatment is an important factor in preventing long-term disability. You’ll probably need the RICE treatment for at least several days (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). That means you wrap the joint with an ace bandage, put ice on it, elevate it and lay off that particular activity for a while. Even if there is no sign of injury, if the joint is still sore 48 hours later, check with your doctor.
If your joint is just sore, and there’s no swelling or tenderness, you can probably treat it at home. You can relieve soreness in several ways:
• RICE works here, too.
• Hot compresses or soaks may help the pain.
• Gently stretch several times a day just to the point where the joint begins to hurt. Don’t push past the pain.
• Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen should decrease the pain and inflammation.
• Several supplements, including glucosamine, condroitin, MSM and omega 3 oils, may help heal joint injuries.
Most joint injuries are preventable; most are due to poor technique or lack of conditioning. Once your joints are less painful, there are several things you can do to prevent further injuries.
Be sure to warm up thoroughly before starting to exercise. A good warm-up prepares the muscles and joints for the workout and prevents injuries. Stretch after your workouts. Stretching is especially important for preventing joint injuries.
Don’t increase your level of exercise too quickly; many joint injuries are because of too much stress on deconditioned bodies. Increase the frequency of your activity first, then the duration and finally the intensity. Increase by a small amount once or twice a week and back off if you experience any joint pain.
Include gentle, gradual strength training in your workout. Strong muscles protect the joints they are associated with. Don’t do strength training on consecutive days, though. Muscles need recovery time between workout sessions.
Make sure you are using proper technique for all aspects of your workout. If necessary, have a trainer show you how to perform exercises correctly. Improper technique can stress and injure joints.
Add some omega 3 fats to your diet, either by taking a supplement (fish oil or flax seed oil, for example) or by eating fish and green vegetables. You may also want to continue taking any supplements you started taking when you were injured; they will continue to strengthen, lubricate and protect your joints.
Serious joint injuries need medical attention. RICE, anti-inflammatory medications and supplements will help heal minor injuries. Proper technique, warming up, stretching and increasing your strength will help prevent future joint injuries.