Movement coach Patricia Goka explains how a quick Movement MOT can begin your journey to easing joint pain and joint stiffness, with these five tips for a healthier lifestyle and strong joints
How to keep joints healthy and strong
It’s a legal requirement to take your car for an annual MOT. Many of us go the additional mile and service our vehicle too. Even our central heating boilers get a once-over, but why?
Identifying issues early on helps to preserve the life of the machine and, most importantly, reduce the likelihood of parts failure that may ultimately result in a loss of life.
Like vehicles or boilers, our body is made up of a number of parts that we need to maintain. Whether it’s harnessing the power of meditation to improve our mental health or doing yoga to boost our physical wellbeing, maintaining our bodies makes for a better quality of life.
I focus on the Musculoskeletal (MSK) system that comprises our muscles (plus all connective tissue) and bones that connect to form our joints, and work with our nervous system to produce movement.
Our body needs to be free to move. Pain is our inbuilt notification system to inform us when something in our body is out of balance and requires attention – and if we take the right steps then we can easily prevent issues such as joint pain from arising.
Pain can appear and quickly disappear. Maybe you slept funny or are feeling stressed one day. What’s worse is that the modern-day response to pain is to ignore it and only take action when pain breaches our tolerance level or disrupts our lifestyle.
How Joint Pain Issues Worsen
By ignoring recurrent or persistent joint pain, three things can happen:
- Pain tolerance –Over time a new baseline for pain tolerance is set and before you know it your body forces you to stop everything and take action.
- Lose functionality – As we avoid or ignore our pain signals, neural pathways are shut-off and we lose control of our muscle function, leading to deterioration in our joint health, our movement capability and ultimately impacts on independent living.
- Joint pain – Pain in joints is another stress our body deals with and has an inflammatory impact on the health of our joints, and takes its toll on our wellbeing.
NHS England report that one in four of us are struggling with joint pain. With an ageing population our NHS and adult social care system is at breaking point. Now more than ever it is important to be proactive, get to the root cause of joint stiffness, aches and pains and learn how to keep joints healthy and strong.
So, here are five tips on maintaining healthy joints for life…
1. Finish Your Rehab Exercises
Once an area of your body has experienced trauma it has an inherent weakness that can easily resurface. If you stopped your rehab exercises prematurely and find yourself back at square one, you can go back to your practitioner or physio for a review.
You can also check your level of success by comparing how the joint moves and feels compared to the uninjured side, for example, if you have shoulder joint pain then comparing the left vs right.
2. Lifestyle Review
Are your daily habits contributing towards your aches, pains and joint stiffness?
Do you carry a heavy bag over one shoulder, sleep on too many pillows, work with sub-optimal ergonomics at your desk-set, or cross your legs too much?
Our body adapts to the position we most frequently adopt. Over time muscle length changes and joints get stiff or move out of optimal alignment. In order to move efficiently and pain free, our body prefers a level of balance. So, why not review your lifestyle and start taking corrective action.
3. Move Everything, Frequently!
If you are in a sedentary job or lead a sedentary lifestyle, it’s time to develop the habit of moving every hour. Hunched over your desk or mobile creates imbalances in your body with some muscles getting shorter and tighter, whilst others become longer and weaker. To preserve your posture and prevent tension setting into your muscles, move in directions opposite to how you’ve been sitting.
4. Take Back Control
You may find it challenging to isolate and move some joints or feel restrictions in your joint range of motion. For example, you may be suffering hip joint pain or stiffness. The lack of mind-muscle connection is a real issue and is an early warning sign of muscle and joint deterioration.
You can only improve and strengthen areas you have access to. The good news is that if you practice for three minutes daily, in fewer than two weeks you can regain the mind-muscle connection back to an area. From there, you can continue to strengthen and relieve the joint pain.
5. Daily Maintenance Plan For Healthy Joints
To stay on top of your joint health and movement quality, start the day with a 15-minute joint care mobility routine. Cover all joints, and move mindfully and purposefully through their full range of motion. From the smallest joints in your fingers and toes to the large ones such as hips, spine and shoulders.
The key is to be supple and strong at all ranges of motion. You will really get to know your body, understand when areas are falling short of baseline and easily put corrective action in place.
For an objective viewpoint, record your movements from the front, back and side profile. It’s fascinating what you can identify when you sit and watch how you move.
The question for you today is, when was the last time you checked how well you are moving?