Rock The Joint
YOUR KNEES, SHOULDERS, HIPS, AND OTHER JOINTS NEED TO LAST A LIFETIME. SO WHY DON’T THEY GET MORE RESPECT? HERE’S YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO KEEPING THEM FUNCTIONAL AND PAIN-FREE.
PUT DOWN THAT DUMBBELL AND LISTEN UP: Muscles aren’t everything. “It’s your joints that make the whole body tick,” says Douglas Comeau, D.O., director of the Boston University Sports Medicine Fellowship. But like any mechanical system, they’re prone to wear and tear. And without well-functioning joints, it’s challenging to add muscle, shed fat, or get anything done around the house. To maintain them, you need to understand how they work and the threats they face. Here’s how to keep your six major joints jumpin’.
[TYPE OF JOINT: BALL-and-SOCKET]
Shoulders have an exceptional 360-degree range of motion but a shallow socket and relatively loose ligaments. “What you gain in mobility you lose in stability,” says Brian Sennett, M.D., chief of sports medicine and vice-chair of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
TOP THREAT: LABRAL TEAR WHAT IT IS:
Damage to the shoulder labrum, a rim of fibrous cartilage that gives the shoulder socket its cuplike shape. A labral tear makes it harder for the ball to stay seated in the socket, so dislocation often follows.
Usually trauma—breaking a fall with an outstretched arm or dislocating a shoulder in an accident—but overuse from throwing or lifting can fray the labrum, too.
Rehab can strengthen muscles and shore up supporting tendons to stabilize the shoulder. If it doesn’t or there’s danger of dislocation, surgery is usually needed to trim frayed or loose labral tissue or reattach the labrum to the socket.
Do this simple exercise: Stand to the right of a resistance band fastened at waist height. Holding the end in your right hand, lock your right elbow to your side and slowly rotate your arm outward, pausing in the fully rotated position. Do 15 reps, then stand to the left of the band and rotate inward against resistance. Repeat with your left arm.
FUTURE-PROOF YOUR SHOULDERS:
Overdoing overhead motions like swimming, throwing a baseball, swinging a racket, or even painting walls can result in impingement on your rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons that cover the head of the upper arm bone and hold the joint in place. This can cause the cuff to tear, especially as tendons become weaker and stiffer with age. To prevent it, do this exercise: While standing, lift a 1- or 2-pound dumbbell to the side and about 30 degrees forward with arm straight and thumb pointed down, like you’re pouring a beer. Do 15 reps per side. According to orthopaedic surgeon Nicholas DiNubile, M.D., this isolates and strengthens the supraspinatus muscles to support the tendon most often damaged.
A popular impingement surgery called subacromial decompression, which smooths bone spurs on the acromion, may not accomplish much, according to a recent study in The Lancet. Patients in 32 UK hospitals who got the arthroscopic procedure didn’t do any better than a control group that had a sham surgery in which doctors scoped the shoulder but didn’t fix anything. Both groups did only slightly better than people who received no treatment, leading researchers to suggest that other treatments, such as rehab, painkillers, and steroid injections, may be more beneficial.