The One Thing You Should Know About Your Joints
Joint pain is a part of life. Whether you’re a couch potato or a highly active individual, it’s likely you’ve experienced joint pain at some point. And if you have, the fix has probably been a couple of painkillers to address the issue. But medication may only provide a temporary solution, because there’s one thing that most people (and many health care providers) fail to realize. Joint pain could be an indicator of improper function, and the problem is rarely at the joint where you feel the pain.
Gray Cook is a physical therapist, author, and lecturer who has been at the forefront of human movement study for quite some time. Much of what I’m presenting here is based on his work. An example he uses to describe his joint-by-joint philosophy is this: If a thief runs up to snatch a purse, it’s the victim who screams, not the culprit. Your joint pain is the screaming victim…now let’s find the culprit.
In order to better understand the cause of joint pain, we must first understand the roles of the joints in the body. Here’s a breakdown of the primary joints and their functions
- Stability at the Foot: The bones, muscles, and group of joints that make up the foot need to provide a stable platform. Other parts of the body depend on it.
- Mobility at the Ankle: Many people, particularly runners, lack adequate mobility in their ankle. This includes tightness in the achilles and calf areas.
- Stability at the Knee: The knee is a stability joint, but is often forced to be more mobile to compensate for a lack of mobility in the ankle.
- Mobility at the Hip: Reduced range of motion in the hip is common.
- Stability at the Lower Back: The lower back is an integral part of overall core stability. Low back pain could be caused by tight hip flexors.
Each joint area has a different primary function, but notice how these joints alternate in function between stability and mobility – stability at the foot, ankle mobility, a stable knee, a mobile hip, and a stable core and lower back. The sequence continues upward through different regions of the back and shoulder.
When pain and dysfunction occur, it’s often because mobility joints aren’t as mobile as they should be and stability joints aren’t as stable as they need to be. Two of the most common examples of this are knee pain and lower back pain.
In the case of the knee, tight lower calf muscles hinder movement at the ankle and cause excess stress at the knee. In this case, knee pain is most commonly felt when walking down stairs or performing squat and lunge-type exercises.
Lower back pain can occur when tight hip flexors continually pull your torso forward causing the lower back to provide continued support for your upper body. You may not even realize that you’re standing and walking with a slight forward bend, but extended activity, including running may amplify the pain.
So how do we stop the pain? It starts with proper mobility and flexibility. If your body cannot move through the required ranges of motion, certain joints must sacrifice stability to compensate for the lack of mobility in other joints. Identifying your body’s tight areas and movement deficiencies is a great first step. This can be done through a quick simple movement assessment. (We include this in our free fitness assessments…contact me if you have questions.)
Next, regular stretching is a must. For most people, I recommend flexibility exercises at least three times a week. I’m not talking about the 3-minute post-run stretch that most people do. I’m talking about a full stretch sequence that hits the appropriate areas.
I wish someone had educated me about the joint-by-joint philosophy long ago. I could have used it to more adequately address my own knee issues. Now, I use it to help you and others I train understand the important of proper movement function. My hope is that you will benefit from this information as well.