In the fitness world, we hear about joints, but what exactly are they? A joint is the area where two bones come together and create movement. The way in which joints are positioned habitually and moved habitually can create imbalances and discomfort. Sub-optimal posture can lead to joint troubles and myofascial tightness (think of the layer of tissue around the muscle getting compressed like dirty laundry in the bottom of the hamper). Joint pain will often occur when the surrounding muscles are not offering enough support to the joint or are creating compression. The two ends of the bones that make up the joint don’t actually touch but have space between them filled with synovial fluid or cartilage or both. Maintaining this space and fluidity is key for happy and healthy joints.
If you are experiencing pain in the joints, here are some ideas for how to improve your joint movement and get rid of the discomfort.
- Pay attention to your posture! How are you stand directly impacts how you move. And movement occurs at the joints. We want our joints to start off in their best “resting position “in the most optimal way which happens more consistently with good posture. An added benefit- paying attention to your posture will ultimately help you pay better attention to your movement patterns.
- Mobilize your joints. Joints rely on motion to feel happy and fluid. The big ball and socket joints of the hip and shoulder specifically need to be moved in a variety of ways. Our more sedentary lifestyle places us in a more flexed position in the body, reducing our full range of motion. Work on moving in a variety of ways to keep these joints pain-free!
- Strengthen your core! Your core is not just the “six pack” that is often displayed on fitness covers. It is the entire cylinder of the center of the body and when it is weakened, the joints suffer. The core muscles surrounding the pelvis, ribs, and shoulders give integrity to the joints. The areas that I always focus on my yoga-movement classes are the gluteus maximus and medius, the obliques and transverse abdominals, the scapular stabilizers, and the deep back muscles like multifidus and quadratus lumborum.
And example of a sequence to work on all three of the above tips:
Start off on all fours, with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. Imagine a front line of the body from the center of your forehead to your pubic bone and draw that line tight by aligning your skull and firming your front body. Bring your left hand behind your skull and as you breathe in, turn your ribs to the left so that the left elbow points up to the ceiling and as you breathe out, move the elbow back to point toward the floor. Repeat this movement, rotating through the ribs for 15 to 20 times on each side of the body.
Next, from quadruped, step your left foot back and then right foot back into a plank position. Hold the front body firm, resisting the downward action of gravity. Tighten your gluteal muscles! Then walk your feet as far forward as you can without picking up your hands, and then walk your feet back so you’re in plank again. Repeat this action for up to one minute. You are mobilizing your hips and strengthening your entire core!
The last time you walk your feet forward, stay forward and slide your hands up your legs to stand upright. Bring your hands on either side of your pelvis and lean your weight into your left foot. Tighten the left gluteals and lift your right knee up toward your belly. Hold in that position while keeping your abdominals strong and then windhshield wiper your right hip joint so that your right thigh swivels in and out (does not have to be a big movement to get a big feeling). While you are working on your right hip mobility, your left hip is getting stronger. Switch legs and repeat 2 to 3 times on each side.
Work on this sequence daily and notice the change in your joints and in your posture-it’s the prescription for happy and healthy movement! You can find more drills like this in my online daily classes at movementbylara.vhx.tv.