Have you ever woken up, got out of bed and start cracking and creaking like a glow stick all over your body and to you dismay, find yourself not glowing? While it’s improbable that you’ll ever enjoy spontaneous bioluminescence from your joints creaking and and cracking, it’s much more likely that your stiff, achy joints leave you feeling fatigued, grumpy, and generally miserable.
It can be confusing to folks sometimes as to why their joints hurt even when they’re developing more strength in their muscles, and therein is the beginning of understanding this issue; your joints aren’t made up of muscle, they’re made up of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
More often than not, when you feel joint pain, you feel pain in your tendons or ligaments, or tendinitis. In the same way that your muscles tear microscopically when you exercise and build muscle, your tendons and ligaments to an extent, do the same.
The problem though is connective tissue does this at a much slower rate. While muscles get bigger and repair faster due to their increased blood flow, tendons and ligaments suffer from having a comparative lack of blood flow and elasticity in the tissue itself. This means that while muscles get bigger, tendons get tighter, and while this leads to tensile strength, without anything to balance it out, you get tight and seize up. This leads to a pattern of tightness that puts extra pressure on those tendons and ligaments, which cause pain.
“By incorporating flexibility exercises into their daily routines, athletes can expect their bodies to perform better and be less susceptible to injuries like tears, strains and sprains” (Rebound, 2020). The pain you feel, particularly in your joints, is when your tendons are tight, and keeping them in this state while eventually leading to injury. So, be stretching, you dramatically decrease your risk of injury.
As an athlete and active individual, I go through a static mobility routine twice a day, typically after having a shower; this warms up the body and makes it more elastic and pliable, much like a warm rubber band versus a frozen one. I personally recommend doing this after you get up in the morning, and after activity or turning in for the night. When it comes to game time, your body will thank you. *it should be noted that this is not a warmup routine. Always engage in active stretching a low impact aerobic movements before engaging in any athletic activity*.
Here’s the list of stretches I do without fail, that dramatically decrease pain in the joints, and increase Range of Motion (ROM). Each stretch should be held for 20-30 seconds, and *SHOULDN’T HURT*. At most they should feel mildly uncomfortable for optimal results.
- Couch stretch: Get into a lunging stance and place your back foot on top of a box or stool. A small pad to cushion your knee while on hard surfaces is recommended. Lean back into your rear foot, while maintaining good posture, with your back as straight as possible. Repeat with both legs.
- Hamstring archer stretch: let one leg sit straight, while the other foot will tuck into your groin. Reach with the same hand as your outstretched leg as close to your foot as possible while keeping your back as straight as possible. Repeat on both sides.
- Butterfly: sit with your feet tucked into your groin and your knees out to the side. Pull your feet as close to your groin as possible, grabbing at the ankles. Push your legs down with your elbows, while maintaining a straight back.
- Pigeon: sit with one leg in front of you, bent at a right angle, with the opposite leg sweeped back behind you. Lift your torso up from your leg and push your foot and on the floor just to th e side of your thigh with your hands. Repeat with the other leg.
- Happy baby: sit and roll backwards into your back. Tilt your hips upward and bend your legs. Grab the arches of your feet and pull towards your body.
- Sphinx/ cobra: lay flat on your stomach and have your hands by your hips, palms facing down with arms bent, much like with a push-up. Lift your torso up and push your hips into the floor, pushing your torso away from the floor with your hands.
- Child’s pose: kneel and split your legs apart like a v. Sink your lower back into your hips with your hands outstretched above your head. Try to push your armpits into the floor.
- Calf stretch: with your heel on the floor, tilt your foot up and step into a wall or bench, with he ball of the foot on the wall. Step into the wall as close as possible, and apply pressure to the upward foot. Repeat with each foot.
Let us know if these stretches helped you!
For best results, do these twice a day as mentioned above.