Injuries, osteoarthritis and old age can have an effect on joints. A majority of people, however, can avoid joint pain by engaging in regular activity, building strength in supporting muscles, and practicing proper form when exercising.
“Joint pain happens when the mechanics of the joint are altered and uneven stress is put on the joint,” says Dr. Lisa Bartoli, osteopathic physician at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “Also, when the supporting muscles that surround the joint are not strong enough to help stabilize and unload stress from the joint, it will become overloaded, causing pain.”
Joint pain common in knees, wrists and shoulders
Any joint is at risk for pain, but some are more likely than others to develop problems. Dr. Bartoli is seeing more patients with wrist pain, which may be due to the strained positions put on the arms, wrists and hands for computer, tablet, and smartphone use. Shoulder pain, caused by a simultaneous lack of stability and abundance of mobility in that joint, is also fairly common.
However, the most common joint affected by pain is the knee, she says. “Knees get a lot of abuse — we are using them all the time when we walk and exercise, making them prone to general wear and tear. Knees are hinge joints that move with a rotational component that can result in tears of the shock-absorbing cartilage known as the meniscus,” Dr. Bartoli says. The main cause of knee pain for young and middle-aged people is running, while for older adults, it’s arthritis.
Identifying problem areas of muscle weakness
When patients have knee pain, two areas of muscular weakness are commonly identified: the gluteal muscles in the buttocks area and the quadriceps muscles in the front thigh. Weakness in these muscles destabilizes and affects control of the upper leg, increasing the stress load on the knee. Muscle tightness is a common problem as well. “People who sit all day long tend to get tight in the quads, hamstrings and hip flexors,” Dr. Bartoli says.
Keep joints healthy with regular exercise
Building and maintaining flexible joints and strong muscles is key to joint health, and may help prevent joint injuries. The two biggest mistakes most people make when exercising are adopting poor form and overdoing it with training.
Form affects every position you adopt during your day — from driving and sitting at a desk at work to your running stride and the position of your body while lifting weights. “It’s all about form. If form suffers, you’re going to suffer,” Dr. Bartoli says. Tips to make sure you’re using proper form include:
- Find a really good trainer. Dr. Bartoli recommends scheduling at least a few sessions with a good personal trainer, who can teach proper form and technique for a number of activities.
- Monitor yourself using a mirror. Whether you’re lifting weights, stretching, or going through a strengthening routine, the ability to see yourself in a mirror helps you ensure correct alignment.
- Ask for help from a workout partner. It’s great to have a workout buddy who can spot you and cue you on proper form, Dr. Bartoli says.
Maintaining a healthy weight and eating an anti-inflammatory diet also helps patients avoid pain and prevent the need for joint surgery down the line, Dr. Bartoli says.
To consult with an osteopathic specialist, call 1-855-411-LWNY (5969) or visit the Mount Sinai Beth Israel Department of Orthopedic Surgery website.