By Mike Westerdal, CPT
Inflammation is swelling that occurs as the body’s self-protection mechanism tries to remove harmful stimuli such as damaged cells or irritants. The body’s approximately 230 joints are particularly susceptible toinflammation.
And when joint inflammation occurs, it inhibits mobility and causes pain. In some cases joint inflammation can result in severe pain that can last for days, weeks or longer, sometimes becoming a chronic condition that lasts a lifetime. In either case, joint inflammation can really inhibit or even bring to a halt weight and strength training.
In an effort to uncover the reasons why some people seem to be more susceptible to inflammation than others, researchers discovered a link between diet and occurrences of painful sudden or chronic joint inflammation. Their studies showed that people who at certain foods—or types of foods—had few instances of joint inflammation and when it did occur, these people recovered at a faster rate than others, who did not eat these foods.
Even more interesting is the fact that they discovered that people who at a different type of food—or types of foods—were more likely to be plagued by either sudden or chronic joint inflammation. Not surprisingly, it also took these individuals much more time to recover from joint inflammation than those who belonged to the other group.
And there’s good reason to be concerned about joint inflammation—particularly chronic inflammation—and it’s not just the painful joints, muscles, swelling and loss of mobility. In fact, chronic joint inflammation can increase your risk of developing serious and potentially deadly diseases and conditions including diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer.
Other factors such as genetics, overall health, lifestyle, amount of sleep and more play a role as well, but nevertheless, chronic joint inflammation can be a significant contributing factor.
Because it is how our bodies obtain the nutrients they need to thrive and be healthy, diet can be linked to an increased likelihood of developing any of the conditions or diseases above. But diet isn’t the only common thread here—chronic joint inflammation can actually be viewed as a ‘precursor’ to these other conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and the others.
That does not necessarily mean that every person with chronic joint inflammation will develop these other illnesses or conditions, but it does increase the chances.
Unfortunately, outward symptoms of joint inflammation can take years and years to develop, meaning that many people are not even aware of the fact that their joints are inflamed until it becomes painful and inhibits mobility. Luckily though, measuring C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in the bloodstream can help tell you the degree to which you are on the path towards developing chronic joint inflammation.
Researchers have discovered a link between increased CRP levels in the bloodstream and systemic joint inflammation. Even more important, they now know that there is a correlation between diet and CRP levels.
People whose diets include healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and antioxidant-rich foods showed lower levels of CRP than persons with diets that mostly consist of highly processed foods, refined sugars, trans fats and simple carbs.
Here are the top ten foods to avoid, if you want to reduce the probability that you will develop systemic joint inflammation:
- Sugars—especially ones that are refined
- Processed foods
- French fries
- Fast foods
- White bread
- Ice Cream
- Cheddar cheeses
- Snack foods
- Oils that are high in unhealthy fats such as vegetable and corn
When I saw this list, the first thought that came to mind is that all of these are foods that most typical Americans eat if not daily, at least four to six times a week. It’s no secret that the typical American diet includes excessive unhealthy (saturated, trans) fats, enormous amounts of sugar, far too many simple carbs and a mind boggling quantity of highly processed foods. Given this, it is no surprise that obesity rates are through the roof and that some studies show that nearly one in five Americans suffers from painful joint inflammation.
A diet high in these foods not only increases CRP levels in the bloodstream—and therefore increasing the chances that you’ll wind up with systemic joint inflammation—but it all but guarantees obesity, which also contributes to joint inflammation. In reality, a diet high in the 10 foods above contributes to system joint inflammation on multiple fronts—not just by increasing CRP levels.
If you already have symptoms of systemic joint inflammation, you should certainly consult a medical professional to see if you have any other conditions (e.g., diabetes, etc.) or require additional treatment or medications. But regardless of whether you do or do not have any symptoms of systemic joint inflammation, eliminating these ten foods from your diet can place you well on the path towards living a life free from painful joint inflammation.
Lifting weights is one of the most beneficial things you can do to improve the health and longevity of your body. Besides increasing muscle mass and building strength, a regular weightlifting routine can strengthen the body’s immune system, elevate mood, improve flexibility and result in better overall health. Once in a while though, we all tend to overdo it when lifting weights, resulting in joint pain and inflammation that cannot only be painful but even debilitating.
Joint pain and inflammation most often occur in the shoulders and the knees but can crop up in the elbows, forearms, wrists, ankles or even hips. The level of pain can range from a mild irritation to severe pain that inhibits or prevents movement. Joint pain and inflammation can be caused by an injury or chronic conditions such as arthritis, bursitis or tendonitis. First, let’s take a look at chronic conditions that can cause joint pain and inflammation in weightlifters.
• Arthritis: Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common forms of this troublesome ailment. For bodybuilders, osteoarthritis is the more common of the two. This one is generally brought on by wear and tear of the joints and is characterized by pain and stiffness in the joints. It occurs when cartilage in the joints becomes rough, causing friction and then pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term disease that is far less common in bodybuilders.
• Bursitis: This condition occurs when the bursa (fluid-filled sacs) between tendons and skin or tendons and bone become inflamed. Bursitis can become acute or chronic. The bursa assist in movement by reducing friction between moving parts. Bursitis is typically caused by overuse or trauma, but can also be the result of an infection.
It most often causes trouble in the shoulders, knees, hips or elbows, but other areas such as the foot are susceptible too. It is characterized by joint pain and tenderness when you press around the joint, stiffness and achiness when you move the affected joint and swelling, warmth or redness around the affected joint.
• Tendonitis: When tendons become inflamed and movement becomes painful as a result, tendonitis can occur. Sometimes the tendons become inflamed for a variety of reasons, and the action of pulling the muscle becomes irritating. While there are hundreds of tendons throughout our body, there are only a handful that tend to get tendonitis—these are ones that have an area of poor blood supply, making them susceptible to damage and poor healing response.
This area of a tendon that is prone to injury is referred to as a “watershed zone,” due to weak blood supply that inhibits the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Consequently, these areas, when injured, become readily inflamed and take a long time to heal. Tendonitis tends to be an overuse injury.
Besides the conditions mentioned above, joint pain and inflammation can also be caused by an injury. For weightlifters, the rotator cuff in the shoulder region is among the most injury-prone joints in the body. The rotator cuff is actually a collection of four muscles and their tendons—all of which wrap around the shoulder, providing support and stability. Joint pain and inflammation in the rotator cuff region can be both painful and debilitating due to the fact that the shoulder plays such a key role in weightlifting.
Injuries to the rotator cuff can occur as the result of trying to lift too much weight or using poor technique. Repetitive arm movements can increase the likelihood of rotator cuff injury. Common movements that lead to rotator cuff injuries include dips, the shoulder press, lateral raises and the bench press. Adding some rotator cuff exercises to your weekly routine should help.
Regardless of the cause and whether it’s the result of an isolated injury or a chronic condition, recovery from joint pain and inflammation generally requires time and rest. Ice packs and ibuprofen can help reduce the pain and swelling but they won’t speed up the healing process. As difficult as it may be, the best treatment for joint pain and inflammation is rest because otherwise, you run the risk of exacerbating the injury and making it worse.
Now if you’re like me when the doctor says, “Don’t workout anymore and take a rest for a few months until it feels better“, you’re thinking to yourself…..Ya right! I’m not some regular guy that works out once in a while, this is a major part of my life and I can’t stay on the sideline that long and lose all my progress.
Besides rest and avoiding activities that cause the pain, here are some other things you can try that have worked for me in the past.
1. Try this cream called, “Rub On Relief“: It has 8 homeopathic ingredients including belladonna, menthol, ingatia, msm, rhus tox, phosporous, naja, and lachesis mutus. It’s natural and not only covers the pain but helps heal it. It doesn’t smell and it doesn’t burn or freeze your skin. There are no side effects and you can read all about the ingredients here. This is way better than the sports creams you find at CVS and blows Tiger Balm out of the water if you’ve ever used that.
2. If you have the funds you can get a massage, get chiropractic adjustments and go visit a physical therapist to perform rehab exercises. These things work, but the downside is that they are expensive and eat up a lot of your time.
If you’re looking for a home-made way to, “take care of this yourself” without spending a ton of money you should check out my friend Jedd Johnson’s, “Fix Your Elbow Pain” eBooks. Jedd is a professional grip strength competitor. He bends nails, and rips decks of cards and that sort of thing. The point is, he has had his fair share of elbow and forearm pain due to a variety of reasons and has put together a package full of useful stretches, exercises and massage techniques you can use to get rid of the pain and not only cover the symptoms but cure the root issue.
Throughout the manual each exercise comes with illustrations and guidance for volume and frequency of training. It’s a done for you solution.
If you’re healthy now, that’s great. The best thing you can do about these issues is try to prevent them in the first place. Jedd’s Fixing Elbow Pain package includes an ebook all about prevention measures you can use including warm ups that get blood flowing to the entire body, teaching you about warning signs so you don’t push too hard, and some quick things you can do after your workouts to speed up recovery.
Here are 2 more quick tips for you. First and foremost, use proper form when lifting weights, using slow, controlled movements. Rapid, jerky movements significantly increase the chances that you’ll injure yourself, resulting in joint pain or inflammation.
In addition, make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats in your diet. Bodybuilders that go on prolonged, extremely low-fat diets have a high risk of joint injury. This is because fats provide some of the cushion in our joints—take away all of the fat and you eliminate important lubrication and cushion. Follow these steps and you’ll reduce the likelihood that you’ll suffer from joint point and inflammation.
If you have any other tips or advice for those of suffering from joint pain and inflammation please share below. Thanks.
Review of the Unbreakable Program
You wouldn’t believe the amount of emails I get from people asking me how to manage pain. Honestly it’s not my area of expertise. I kind of just deal with it like most of us probably do. Than I mask the symptoms with ice, ibuprofrin, elbow sleeves and muscle rub. My buddy Dave and I from the gym joke around a lot like we are squirting oil into every part of our body that bends before we start training. I get a kick out of it, but maybe you had to be there.
Anyway, I decided to buy a copy of Keith Scott’s corrective exercise program called Unbreakable. Basically I wanted to know if this would be a good place to refer people to.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you are a bodybuilder or strength athlete injuries are inevitable at some point. When they do happen, not only can they be physically painful, but they can even be emotionally painful too. It’s frustrating to be making gains and then suddenly you’re sidelined by an injury. A common reaction is to take something for the pain and try and “work through it,” which is usually not very effective and often leads to even more problems. Other options like physical therapy-though effective-can be costly and time consuming.
There are alternatives though-in fact, Keith Scott has developed a system called Unbreakable, that he says can help most anyone learn to live pain-free and to do all the things they love to do. He’s spent more than 18 years working in the sports medicine and sports performance fields and developed Unbreakable not only to help people address and prevent physical injuries but to improve overall athletic performance.
After a discussion about how most people deal with injuries by ignoring them entirely or just medicating the symptoms, Keith talks about what he calls the “kinetic chain.” Basically, the kinetic chain is all about how all of our systems are interconnected and how they rely on one another in countless different ways. When one component of the system is not functioning properly it causes a chain reaction that impacts the entire system. This section of the book is incredibly interesting, presenting plenty of information that will be new to most people-including me.
The Unbreakable system is made up of detailed assessments, special fitness program “plug-ins” to correct physical issues, full, specific corrective exercise plans and targeted soft tissue work. There are five basic steps to the program with each component discussed at length in its own guide.
Steps one and two together comprise the assessment portion of Unbreakable. This guide is broken down into body-part sections. In each, you are guided through a series of simple tests and questions. The tests aren’t overly complicated and the process is fairly straightforward and easy to follow. Keith includes photos and step-by-step instructions for performing the tests. Following each test/question segment is an “assessment explanation” section that clarifies the meaning of the results. Step three is where based on the assessment, you determine the appropriate course of action for you.
With steps four and five we learn about the “plug-ins,” corrective exercises. Like the previous guide, this one is divided into body-part sections that correspond with the assessments. The exercises are designed to work together holistically to address strength, muscular endurance, joint stability, balance, power, flexibility, mobility, range of motion and to eliminate pain. The program calls for performing the exercises at least three days a week.
The exercises are presented in daily (day 1, day 2, etc.) charts that give you all the information you need-number of reps, number of sets and the overall benefits of each exercise. The next guide gives you all the information you need to know to perform all of the exercises. Again, like the previous guides this one is broken down by body parts, making it easy to reference. In-depth how-to descriptions and photos are included for each exercise.
All of the exercises presented in Unbreakable are simple enough to do for just about anybody, regardless of skill level or athletic ability. Whether you’re a seasoned bodybuilder, a beginner, elderly or an overweight guy who hasn’t exercised in 20 years, you shouldn’t have any problems performing any of the movements.
The next guide presents a summary of Keith’s 4-phase 16-Week Unbreakable Strength and Fitness Program. The exercises are presented in charts broken down by day and phases with all the information you need-number of reps/sets and the rest period. The guide that follows provides comprehensive exercise descriptions with photos.
Four additional guides complete the package: Soft Tissue Work for Optimal Physical Health, Recovery and Regeneration FAQ Guide, Nutrition Guidelines and Fat Burning with High-Intensity Interval Training. Each of these is well-written, providing plenty of useful information in an easy-to-follow and understandable format.
In my opinion Unbreakable is a good value, well worth the investment. Keith doesn’t knock the need for doctors and doesn’t profess to know more than they do. He sticks to his area of expertise, which is helping people to prevent and manage common minor issues that manifest themselves through aches and pains. He presents useful, practical information that can not only help you to avoid injuries, but to also to improve your overall fitness level.
If you’re sick of the lower back pain, the aichy knees, the clicking shoulders and the rest of the “issues” that come along with the hobby we all love than spending $77 on Keith’s program could be a good investment for you to help get rid of some nagging injuries.
Keep training hard,
P.S. If you do get this program, keep in mind it comes with a membership recurring billing site. You get the first month free which is cool so you can talk to Keith the author directly. You can’t do that when you buy a book at the book store can you?