How to Reduce Sore Joints from Lifting
Nothing beats a good lifting session, honestly. The sense of accomplishment, energy boost, pleasant mood, and improved endurance are some of the many benefits of lifting besides the obvious muscle mass gains. But lifting may also come with soreness in joints. Sore joints can be quite uncomfortable and frustrating, but you can reduce this side effect. Read on to learn more about this subject.
Causes of joint soreness
It’s not uncommon for people who lift weights to experience joint pain and soreness, especially in elbows and knees, joints that do a great deal of work during your session in the gym. Why does soreness happen in the first place? The most common causes of pain and soreness in joints after lifting are too much weight and incorrect form.
When you're lifting, like in other workouts, it is crucial to listen to your body. Sometimes we forget about that. Through soreness, pain, and discomfort, the body is trying to tell you that something is not quite okay. So, if your joints and muscles are sore after a lifting session, you may want to reassess the weight you're handling. While you may not think so, that particular weight could be too much for you. As a result, it produces too much pressure on your joints. That's why you may feel pain and soreness. These side effects are particularly common with complex lifting methods, such as lifting weights above the head.
Proper form is vital, regardless of the type of physical activity you do. To get the most from your workout session, you need to perform exercises the right way. Otherwise, you’re risking injuries and failing to activate all the right muscles. The same happens with lifting. Your form is crucial. A slight change in balance or posture can increase stress on your joints.
In addition to too much weight and inadequate form, it's also important to mention repetitive use. Sometimes we experience joint pain, soreness, or stiffness, even due to overuse. The same joints are activated constantly, meaning small tears near surrounding tendons may start accumulating eventually. Inflammation and pain may ensue. As the tendon tries to repair itself, scar tissue forms around the affected area and may decrease blood flow.
Changes in training to reduce joint soreness
While sore and painful joints are sometimes inevitable, they don’t have to be the integral component of your lifting session. In fact, they may slow down your progress. Simple tweaks in your training routine can help you reduce or prevent these problems. Here are a few tips to check out.
Don’t forget to warm up first
The importance of warming up before a workout is largely underestimated, especially among weight lifters. A growing body of evidence confirms warming up improves exercise performance. Additionally, warming up and stretching prevent injuries and should be implemented before physical activity.
Therefore, before you start lifting weights, you may want to perform gentle yet dynamic stretches to warm up first. Stretching exercises loosen the joints and thereby minimize the risk of discomfort during the workout.
Why dynamic stretches, you wonder? Unlike static counterparts, dynamic stretches revolve around the constant movement of a specific part of the body. Examples of dynamic stretches you can do include arm circles, hand walks, air squats, toe touches, torso twists, walking lunges, and standing back stretches.
Start with lighter weights first
Ego lifting is quite common among weightlifters. Basically, it is the act of lifting too much weight to show off. Not just to others, but to yourself! As previously stated, lifting too much weight may lead to joint pain. For that reason, you need to listen to your body and move on to bigger or heavier weights when you know for sure you're ready for it.
To minimize or prevent joint pain and minimize the risk of injuries, you may want to start your session with lighter weights. In fact, it’s also useful to incorporate lighter weights in your warm-up.
Weightlifters aren’t really fans of the "use lighter weights first" idea, for sure. A common belief here is that they wouldn't be able to evolve, grow bigger gains, or improve strength and overall performance this way. Not true, though! A study from the Journal of Applied Physiology followed 49 male athletes for three weeks to determine whether loads influenced gains and strength. Results showed subjects who used lighter weights for approximately 25 reps per set gained equal muscle mass amount as their counterparts who lifted heavier weights for almost half of the reps per set.
So, next time you’re in the gym, you may want to start the workout session off with lighter weights then gradually progress to heavier options.
Focus on form
Without proper form and execution, you can expect sore and painful joints or increased injury risk. Fortunately, you can fix this problem. Focus on your form and proper execution. Lifting involves a lot of squatting too. Improper form can result in patellar tendonitis and severe pain in the back of your kneecap. When doing squats, make sure knees align hips. At the same time, knees should not extend beyond your toes. During seated leg presses, you should never lock out or keep your knees completely straight. Otherwise, you'd form too much stress on the joint instead of switching the weight to the muscles. Avoid strain and discomfort by keeping your knee slightly bent.
When lifting weights, the goal is not to lift as quickly as you can. You're going to achieve a lot more just by focusing on proper posture and execution. Your joints will thank you, as well.
Do low-impact exercises too
Doing vigorous weightlifting only may not be the best idea for your joints. After all, your joints are constantly under stress that way, and you deal with pain and soreness. A practical way to prevent these problems is to do low-impact exercises too. Your workouts should be versatile. For instance, you may want to do weightlifting and easy, low-impact cardio on alternating days. Low-impact aerobic activities include elliptical machines, swimming, and pedalling.
Water is essential for joint health. In fact, up to 60% of the human body accounts for water. Staying hydrated throughout the day is essential; that also includes the time before, during, and after the lifting session. The reason is simple; water helps lubricate joints. Water is in synovial fluid, which lubricates and cushions your joints and cartilage that surrounds them—lifting weights while dehydrated can cause painful friction. So, always make sure you're drinking enough water.
Don’t underestimate the importance of rest
With a strong desire to do more and get bigger gains, it’s not uncommon for people to fail to rest properly. As much as you need to focus on proper execution during your workout sessions, you also need to make sure you’re getting enough rest. A common mistake that many weightlifters make is that they do lifting on multiple consecutive days. The main idea here is to maximize gains. But it doesn’t work that way. Doing so could only slow and delay your progress.
After a workout, your body needs to heal, muscle fibres need to repair, and joints need to rest. As you keep lifting day after day, you're depriving your joints, muscles, and tissues of much-needed rest, and it could only lead to pain and soreness. Without proper rest, joints and muscles may start degrading. Strive to rest 24 to 48 hours after lifting weights.
Use proper gear
Compression brace or wraps may help stabilize the joint and protect it against stress-induced injuries. Nowadays, it's easy to find weightlifting gear in sports stores or online. Opt for high-quality options that will protect your joints as you're lifting.
Professional services to decrease or prevent sore joints
Making changes in your workout routine is necessary for relief from joint pain and soreness. A combination of different approaches works the best, though. In addition to adjusting your workouts, you may want to check out professional services that decrease or prevent joint pain and soreness. These include:
- Dry needling – involves inserting several filiform needles into trigger points in muscles and tissues. Also known as intramuscular stimulation, dry needling targets knotted or hard muscle releases the knot and relieves pain and spasm
- Massage – an effective way to relieve joint pain by promoting relaxation and improving blood flow
- Acupuncture – may decrease pain, inflammation, and stiffness
- Chiropractic care – optimizes the function of your joints, thus relieving pain and improving range of motion
- Physical therapy – if your joint pain and soreness are persistent and seem like they’re not going away, you may want to see a physical therapist. They will create an adequate plan for you to follow for joint recovery and prevention of further pain and discomfort
Home remedies to try
Sore, painful joints can be quite uncomfortable and frustrating. As you’re trying to increase gains and strength, the last thing you need is a painful joint to bother you. Quick home remedies can be helpful, especially when you use them in combination with other approaches from this post. Useful home remedies include:
- Cold or warm compresses – applying ice packs or cold gels on painful joints may help alleviate pain, while warm compresses relieve stiffness. However, some people find the combination of both to be the most helpful. You may want to experiment to see what works for you best. Keep in mind you shouldn't apply anything too cold or too hot directly onto the skin.
- Foam roll – softens the tissue and relieves tightness. Foam rolling lowers pressure on the joints, improves motion, and alleviates pain.
- Stretching – gentle stretching can take the pressure away from your joints and thereby relieve soreness. You can do stretching in the comfort of your home.
- Herbal ointments – salves made of cinnamon, ginger, sesame oil, and mastic may help you alleviate joint pain through relaxing effects.
- Eat a well-balanced diet – foods you consume have a major impact on the health of your joints. Strive to eat a lot of anti-inflammatory foods, primarily fruits, vegetables, and spices
- Drink green tea – as one of the healthiest beverages in the world, green tea can also support joint health. Drinking this tea can limit the production of molecules in the immune system that triggers inflammation and pain in joints.
- Take a bath or shower – a simple activity such as a nice bath or shower can alleviate stiffness and relieve soreness. For some people, cold showers are more effective than warm, but lukewarm would be ideal for most people.
Supplements to consider
In addition to the abovementioned tips and strategies to reduce joint soreness, you may want to consider taking dietary supplements. These products are formulated to deliver compounds necessary for joint health and thereby protect them while you’re working out, lifting, and increasing your gains. Here are a few useful options ideal for lifters:
- Fish oil – known for its anti-inflammatory properties but may also prevent muscle breakdown and support joint health.
- Glucosamine – may stimulate chondrocytes, cartilage-producing cells, to build new cartilage, thus relieving the symptoms of wear and tear. Glucosamine reduces inflammation and supports mobility.
- Elbow Grease – comprehensive joint formula containing vitamins C and D3, minerals manganese and zinc, and compounds such as collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Regular intake supports joint health, mobility, and cartilage growth and repair.
- Joint Mobility – relieves joint discomfort, supports the health of joints and tendons, and restores mobility.
- Jolt – collagen formula for proper health and function of joints, tendons, and ligaments
Weightlifting sessions often come with uncomfortable pain and soreness in joints, usually knees and elbows. This happens due to several reasons, including too much weight and improper form. But repetitive motions can cause pain as it is. Thankfully, there's a lot you can do to relieve and prevent this problem. Adjust your workout in order to minimize stress on your joints, use supplements for joint health, and seek help from professional services such as massage or dry needling. A combination of different approaches will yield the best results.