Pain and inflammation in your knees, ankles, and wrists can quickly put a stop to any workout plans you had. When joint pain is allowed to run rampant and become worse, it promotes a more sedentary lifestyle. When you aren’t using your muscles and joints, they grow weak and atrophy, significantly increasing your risk for strains, falls, and injuries. What’s more, a sedentary lifestyle is linked to a greater risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
What can you do to protect your joints and promote joint recovery, if you’ve been hurt? For starters, you’ll want to maintain a healthy, experience-level appropriate, and safe workout program that consists of both stretching and lifting. But you can also help to restore your joint health by using the right fitness gear and supplementing your diet with anti-inflammatory foods.
FITNESS GEAR FOR JOINT RECOVERY AND PROTECTION
Prevention is always the best medicine. A few pieces of cost-effective fitness gear can help to prevent joint-related injuries while improving performance and gains. Here are the most worthwhile pieces of fitness gear that you should take with you to the gym.
Wrist wraps are one of the best fitness gear investments you can make as they are super durable and offer maximum protection. This goes double if you’re a powerlifter or doing Strongman training. You must protect the tendons, connective tissues, and muscles in your forearm and grip during your heaviest lifts; wrist wraps help you do just that.
If you’ve recently experienced a wrist injury or if you’ve had complications with your wrist for years, these wraps can help you get through a workout without pain. While the wrist wraps should always be used as a part of a comprehensive stretching and workout program, the support they offer can greatly benefit joint recovery.
If you’re performing high intensity and high impact exercises, knee sleeves are a must. Not to be confused with knee wraps, knee sleeves are tight, spandex-like pieces of flexible material that provide firm support for your knees. They promote recovery and offer protection during your toughest workouts without cutting off circulation.
If you’ve been through a knee surgery or if you’ve always had an issue with your knee, a sleeve can help to restore some degree of functionality. For example, you may find it easier and less painful to walk or get through a fitness class.
Let’s face it: Long-time lifters have a tough time giving up the squat exercise even if their doctors tell them to do so. If you’ve been experiencing pain in your neck and shoulders during normal exercise, it may be time to invest in a high-quality squat pad.
A squat pad offers protection from the barbell without interfering with your normal performance. It can help to dramatically decrease the amount of soreness or pain that you feel after squatting. Best of all, you don’t have the worry about bruising. Another use for the squat pad is to protect your shins from getting scratched by the barbell.
LUMBAR SUPPORT BELT
You should try to perform normal activities such as walking up and down the stairs without back support; instead, focusing on improving your core strength. With that said, using a lumbar support belt during workouts is highly recommended, especially if you’ve been experiencing stiffness or pain.
The best lumbar support belt supports proper blood flow and circulation through thermal activation. In other words, by naturally and safely increasing your body temperature at your core, you’ll notice an improvement in mobility and a reduction in pain.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR JOINT RECOVERY AND PROTECTION
Now that you’re armed with the right fitness gear to protect you and support recovery from the outside of your body, there’s plenty that can be done on the inside. Nutrition plays a key role in joint recovery and protection.
Inflammation is thought to be responsible for more than just that pain you’re feeling in your joints. Inflammation may be responsible for promoting the development of a variety of diseases including cancer. Ridding yourself of inflammation will do more than just allow you the ability to move freely; it may also improve your overall health.
Here are five anti-inflammatory foods that have all been scientifically proven to be natural, safe, well-tolerated, and effective for fighting against the inflammation and pain. They are easy to include into your current diet, whether through whole foods or supplements, and they can help reduce or eliminate the need for dangerous medications. What’s more, all five of these foods have an extensive list of benefits that will improve other areas of your health such as digestion, cognition, and energy.
Originating in Indian and China, ginger has never ceased to be a natural way to improve your health. Known to calm the stomach and promote digestion, ginger also has been discovered to promote anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to alleviate pain.
Ginger may be able to fight inflammation in a number of ways. First, the ketones in ginger, namely gingerols and shogaol help to suppress the cytokines in the body that promote inflammation. What’s more, just like turmeric, ginger may help to block the genes that trigger inflammation. (1)
You can add in ginger to your daily routine in a number of ways. If you enjoy the taste, add it to your lunch and dinner meals; however, be sure to also consume some raw as well. If you’re not a fan of the taste but you want those anti-inflammatory benefits, you can use a ginger extract or ginger oil. These are super concentrated forms of ginger that capture all of the nutrients you need.
A popular way to add flavor and spice to your dinner dishes, turmeric has been used as a health and wellness aid for thousands of years with an emphasis on inflammation.
Turmeric has been shown to be an effective way to alleviate the inflammation and pain in your joints so that you can continue to live an independent lifestyle. One study showed that turmeric actually blocks certain genes that trigger joint inflammation. (2)
The trick with taking turmeric is to pair it with black pepper extract and to be consistent. Take one to two servings of a turmeric supplement each day. You can add turmeric to your foods but it isn’t as easily absorbed in spice form as it is in supplement form.
GAMMA-LINOLENIC ACID (GLA)
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid. If you look on the back of a nutrition label, you’ll see it under the term polyunsaturated fats. You can commonly find it in vegetable oils and seeds such as evening primrose seeds. You can even find it in trace amounts in certain vegetables and nuts; however, nothing beats a GLA extract supplement when you want to get the most bang for your buck.
Inflammation is the reason you’re joints flare up, your hands swell, and why everything seems to hurt on the most challenging of days. Gamma linolenic acid has been shown in several studies to inhibit or halt altogether the inflammatory response in the body by suppressing the genetic activity that leads to inflammation. (3)
Most studies tend to recommend using two grams of GLA each day for the best benefits.
OMEGA-3S (FISH OIL)
Experts agree that the typical American diet is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids. You can easily find omega-3 fatty acids on a nutrition label under “mono-unsaturated fats.” The best sources for omega-3 fatty acids include wild caught salmon, flaxseed, and walnuts.
Numerous studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that may be of use to inflammation-based conditions, most notably in the elbows and knees. What’s more, it has been shown to be effective at alleviating symptoms of conditions such as migraines, arthritis, and Crohn's disease allowing subjects to decrease or eliminate their need for over-the-counter and prescription pain remedies. (4)
Omega-3 fatty acids are safe to consume each day. You can do so through whole foods or high-quality supplements of fish oil and krill oil.
Found within chili peppers, capsaicin is the flavorful spice that all spicy food lovers enjoy. Researchers found that capsaicin has thermogenic properties, which have been shown to be useful for weight loss. But further studies have revealed capsaicin to be a highly effective nutrient to combat inflammation and pain.
When you’re experiencing pain, especially in the lower back, wrist, and knees, you want immediate relief. Even if you reach for a prescription medication or over-the-counter source of pain relief, you still have to wait until it kicks in, which could be upwards of an hour. Immediate pain relief can be found in topical treatment or those remedies you can place directly on the skin. Menthol-based creams are okay for muscle aches but when you have pain, you need something more.
Capsaicin-based topical creams have been shown to be highly effective at reducing symptoms of pain and inflammation. Within a minute, capsaicin-based topical creams are fully absorbed and pain relief is usually felt shortly after. What’s more, those creams with a isopropyl alcohol base seem to be absorbed the best. (5)
HOW DO YOU SUPPORT JOINT RECOVERY?
Do you follow a nutrition program with any of the options from above? What protective fitness gear do you wear during your workouts? Let us know on our Facebook!
- Bode AM, Dong Z. The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/.
- Funk J. L, Frye J. B, Oyarzo J. N. et al. Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2006;54:3452–64. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17075840.
- Kapoor R, Huang YS. Gamma linolenic acid: an anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2006 Dec;7(6):531-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17168669.
- Simopoulos AP. Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Dec;21(6):495-505. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12480795.
- O’Neill J, Brock C, Olesen AE, Andresen T, Nilsson M, Dickenson AH. Unravelling the Mystery of Capsaicin: A Tool to Understand and Treat Pain. Dolphin AC, ed. Pharmacological Reviews. 2012;64(4):939-971. doi:10.1124/pr.112.006163.