Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Causes of joint pain and stiffness in exercising population

There are a large number of possible causes of joint pain and stiffness, and the diagnosis of a particular problem can be a very complex process – just ask any physiotherapist!

Exerciser's lists causal factors:

1. Acute injuries: come on suddenly and are usually associated with some kind of trauma. Common examples include: Ligaments torn or damaged by unusual or excessive movement of the joint; Impact injuries: where one or more of the joint structures is damaged by an external blow; Protruding/prolapsed intervertebral disc: where unusual intervertebral forces lead to the deformation of the disc, allowing it to come into close proximity with nerves

2. Chronic injuries tend to come on quite gradually, thus making them trickier to diagnose. Common examples include: Overuse injuries, where the long-term training volume exceeds the capacity of the joints involved to undergo adequate repair and recovery

a. Muscle imbalance injuries, where the joint fails to operate through its correct range of movement because of unequal or unbalanced muscular forces acting on the joint, or (particularly in the case of the spine) inadequate stabilisation of the joint(s) by the deep postural muscles

b. Degenerative conditions are associated with longer-term, less easily reversible functioning of the joints and are much more common in mature athletes. These conditions frequently include: Arthritic-type wear and tear, where the articular cartilage becomes worn, leading to narrowed joint spaces, sometimes referred to as osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition of the joints caused by an auto-immune reaction, Low synovial fluid secretions, leading to reduced lubrication in the joint capsule.

Common to all these causal factors is the process of inflammation. Although part of the normal healing process, it can actually impede this process when it becomes chronic.

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