A Simple Solution for Joint and Muscle Pain
As a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist I’ve seen a glaring pattern in my work over the past seven years. The majority of people who seek my help come with a list of joint aches, muscle cramps, pain and injuries. What do they have in common? They admit that for years, if not decades, they’ve been drinking coffee, soda, beer, and wine instead of water.
Here is a useful visual: what happens when you take the water out of steak? It turns into Beef Jerky!
If you don’t drink much water, but substitute it with caffeinated teas or diuretics mentioned above, you are dehydrating your muscles and your brain. Don’t have much energy? Low-level dehydration leaves us feeling lethargic, sluggish, tight, achy and dazed. Like the “Tin Man” without oil, our bodies don’t function properly without H2O.
Lack of proper hydration leads us into a downward spiral. It lowers our energy and prevents us from wanting to get up and exercise. We might sit in chairs all day at work or on the couch becoming bound up in that desk-jockey position. Groups of unused muscles begin to weaken while other groups of muscles tighten from non-movement. For those who actually have to move for work, their movements are often repetitive and only use a few muscle groups causing them to tighten. Add dehydration to the equation and those muscles cramp up. This alters our joint movement which leads to more pain and/or injury.
Over time these dehydrated tissues shorten in length, often changing our gait, posture, and freedom of joints to move properly with strength. It is these muscle imbalances that play tug of war on our joints, often causing inflammation, aches and pains in the lower back, hip, knee, shoulder, and neck.
So what simple solution can you start today? Drink more water! How much? Google “Hydration Calculator” for a personalized assessment. We’re all different in height, weight, exercise level, etc. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how much the body requires for full vitality. The hydration calculator should include weather as a variable since Hawaii is hotter than most places year-round.
But that’s not all! Remember those tight muscles? We’ll need to elongate them safely, returning them to the “soft tissue” they once were. I believe the best way to loosen tightened muscles is through learning to utilize Self-Myofacial Release or Foam Rolling (think self massage) – a technique widely used in Personal Training and Physical Therapy. You’ll need a consistent and safe stretching program as well as learning what muscles are inactive and how to strengthen them apart from your tight muscles.
One major reason people say they don’t drink water is they dislike the taste. I recommend using something as simple as a Brita-type filter. This helps remove impurities. For flavor, add a few slices of cucumber, orange, mint, strawberries, lemon, etc to your water pitcher.
Another reason people stop drinking water?: having to go to the bathroom “too often.” This indicates a secondary problem, however: a weak core / kegel muscles. Working to regain their strength and activation will allow you to “hold it” longer and drink more water!
Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Performance Enhancement Specialist John Blankenship has a B.A. in Psychology and is the founder/owner of Your Best Body Kauai. He offers a fitness orientation to assess your muscle imbalances and various fitness goals. For more information visit YourBestBodyKauai.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally printed in “Hawaii’s Inspiration Magazine”: http://www.hawaiisinspiration.com/winter-expo-2013-issue/
Corrective Exercise Explained
The corrective exercise continuum consists of four phases: 1) Inhibit, to release tension; 2) Lengthen, to increase extensibility and range of motion; 3) Activate, to reeducate under-active tissues; and 4) Integrate, to retrain muscles.
Explained in more depth:
1) To remove your muscle aches and pains we must identify which muscles are too tense, cramped and inflamed that are likely the cause of your “back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain and so forth”.
Once we’ve identified the culprit muscles of tension and pain, you’ll learn how to do what is called “Self Myofacial Release” utilizing tools from home such as different size and density foam rolls and balls to “massage” your own tissues frequently enough that the muscle tension subsides. I often suggest utilizing deep tissue, therapeutic massage to assist in getting deeper or harder to get areas. However, it’s learning how to massage your own muscles often enough at home that the pain stays away.
2) You’ll also learn to stretch and lengthen those tight muscles.
3) We then target and activate weak muscles with specific exercises.
4) We want to integrate those under-active / weak muscles and retrain them so that they perform well during functional body movements that you do in your daily life.
In essence we want to blend massage (self-myofacial release), (stretching), physical therapy (targeting specific muscles safely) and total-body, functional training to achieve a pain free and stronger body.