To prevent joint pain, should I stretch before or after my workout?

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Whatever you do ... don't skip stretching

Prevent joint pain by moving every day.

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Stretching should not be limited to just before or after you exercise.  To prevent joint pain, your body needs to warm up before jumping into any type of workout.  By doing static and dynamic stretches you will allow your body to limber up and warm up helping you prevent any strenuous injuries during your workout.  With that being said, it is also smart to stretch after your workout to help your body cool down.

Types of Stretches that can cause or prevent joint pain


Types of stretches that can cause or prevent joint pain

Static Stretches.

Static stretches are one of the types of stretches that you can do as a warm-up.  When you do a static stretch, you will make minimal movements, an example of this is touching your toes and holding that position for 30 to 60 seconds.  When you stretch, you should feel your muscles elongating.  If your muscle has an adhesion you will feel a tightness in the muscle.

As you hold the stretch, your muscle will send a signal to the Golgi tendon organ (GTO), then the GTO will send a signal back telling the muscle to relax. So, as you are stretching and you feel that tightness for the first 10-15 seconds, and when you are feeling the muscle loosening up, you are actually releasing the adhesion and causing the muscle to elongate and have a better range of motion. This is the best type of stretch when you want to prevent joint pain.

Dynamic stretches.

Another type of stretch is the dynamic stretch.  This stretch is a functional movement involving multiple muscle groups to move in a controlled pattern that will stretch and contract the muscle without hurting it.  One example is side-to-side lunges, and another is squats.  If you are just starting out, you shouldn't do dynamic stretches because your muscles won't be linked together very well yet. Dynamic stretching involves movement with momentum which if the muscles are not very well connected could lead to injuries and more joint pain or inflammation.

Foam roll to prevent joint pain

Foam Rolling.

Another way to release your tight muscles is by releasing them with trigger points commonly done with foam rollers.  Similar to static stretching, within a trigger point, you find a tender spot which is muscle tightness. Be careful not to roll over your joints, especially the ones causing your pain.

Trigger points will stimulate the Golgi tendon organ and send the signal to tell your muscle to relax.  When you stretch you involve the entire muscle group but when you trigger point release you target smaller muscle areas.  The best way to allow your body to warm up is to start with a foam roll (SMR - self-myofascial release) routine followed by a static stretch or a dynamic stretch.

What you should do.

You should start with SMR/foam rolling whether you are doing static stretching or dynamic stretching to better protect your body and prevent joint pain during your workout sessions.

In order to prevent joint pain and further damage to your joints, be extra careful as you stretch.

Here are some tips to help you prevent joint pain:

  • Exercise the joints that cause pain. If you suffer from joint pain, the last thing you want to do is not exercise.
  • The longer you suffer, the shorter range of motion you will have.
  • Avoid this by moving your joints through their full pain-free range of motion.
  • Do this at least once a day every day to prevent joint pain.
  • Learn to understand the difference between arthritis joint pain and pain from overusing your joints.
  • When you are able to do this, you can determine what specific exercises can help you regain more range of motion.

A certified personal trainer with experience in joint pain and inflammation can help you set up a personalized program.


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