Joint DesignJoints are connecting points in your body where multiple bones connect and allow movement between those bones (shoulder, knee, hips, elbow, etc.). They are made up of connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, cartilage, etc.) and are surrounded by muscle. These joints move through the firing of muscles that pull on the tendon which is connected to the bone that is to be moved. Joints are made up of differing construction (ball in socket, fibrous tissue, cartilage tissue, etc.), however they all share the trait of being made of multiple ligaments, tendons, and other tissue. Complex joints (such as your shoulder) encompass multiple muscles, multiple smaller joints, and multiple bones on both sides of your body. Often times with joints such as this, the pain you feel as a result of injury is not in the location of the actual injury. Instead, you feel where your body is compensating for the injury and is inflamed. For example, a strained biceps tendon on the front of the top half of your arm, will likely result in pain around your shoulder blade. This is an example of just how complex these joints can be and what you must be mindful of when it comes to joint pain and its cause.
Joint ligaments and tendons do not receive the same amount of blood that muscles receive so joint mobility requires additional time and care. Stretching for flexibility, proper warm-ups to ensure good blood flow, and using proper form while training are all crucial factors in joint health. Be sure to incorporate multiple warm-up maneuvers and stretches (such as these shoulder mobility moves) for the joints you will be training/using to ensure proper joint health.
Since your joints are not pumped with blood like a muscle, it is important to make sure that you are providing your joints with proper nutrition so that the little bit of blood that does go into your joint is packed with nutrients. Nutrients such as Glucosamine (also known as HCI) and Methylsulfanyl methane (MSM) are essential to joint health, longevity, and recovery. These nutrients are not abundant in foods like vitamins and protein so you need to be taking a joint supplement. I take Wilderness Athlete’s Joint Advantage every day and it works well. As with any other nutrition supplement, it is not a miracle drug by any means; however, it provides my joints with HCI, MSM, and other nutrients that have helped improve my joint health over the last few months.
Also, omega-3 fish oil is another essential nutrient for joint health. Fish oils act as a natural anti-inflammatory and can help to proactively prevent joint pain and soreness.
Joint pain is often a result of poor training and/or poor nutrition. Yes, age does have something to do with it, but I had joint pain at 18 and joint pain at 30. What was consistent in my joint pain was lack of knowledge and lack of nutrients. With proper training and proper supplements, you can minimize inflammation, soreness, and injury. Your joints are an integral part of your overall fitness as well as a key component to success in the backcountry. Take care of your joints and they will take care of you.