Sharp knee pain? A bad case of Tennis Elbow? Ankles that hurt when you walk? Our joints may be mechanical marvels, but all their moving parts make them prone to injury (and, by extension, pain). So, if you’re currently dealing with joint pain or just want to learn more on how to address it if you get it, we’ll be going over the best methods for joint pain relief, injury recovery, and how to protect yourself from re-injury.
Anatomy of a joint injury
As we mentioned, our joints are made up of many parts, including:
- Cartilage, which cushions the joint
- Tendons and muscles, which help them move
- And ligaments, which are bands of tough, fibrous tissue that stabilise the joint and prevent it from moving too far in any direction.
When all of these parts are healthy and working together, we can move without issue. But when they’re injured, we can really feel the effect. An overused tendon, for example, can lead to tendonitis, making it hard to use the joint without getting pain and irritation in return. Hence, it’s not surprising that many people are tempted to stop moving and putting pressure on the joint. However, while some rest is often necessary, the goal of many medical professionals is to get you moving ASAP. Long weeks of minimal or no movement lead to shortened, less flexible tendons, reduced nutrient supply, and weakened muscles. So, where do you start to get the best shot at recovery?
The recovery process
Stage 0: Doctor
The first step is to seek specialist advice. It’s not always easy to pinpoint the cause of your injury. Even if you’re 98% sure it’s just a sprained ankle, there could be more to it than meets the eye. And without proper treatment, even minor tendonitis could cause complications down the line. Remember, the earlier you get help for your joint pain, the better. And the better suited the treatment is to your injury type, the faster you’ll heal and get back into your routine.
Stage 1: Joint pain relief
As we mentioned, movement is fundamental for our joints, but pain can make it difficult to do that as we don’t want to inadvertently cause a flare-up. Not to mention, once your pain receptors are activated, the joint may grow stiff or even lose some stability. Now, the usual first aid steps of RICE (that is, rest, ice, compression, and elevation) will go a long way to helping you relieve joint pain. But after the first few days after your injury, their effectiveness will drop. We also want to stress that pain relief medications - while effective in managing this particular symptom - will just mask your pain without addressing the underlying cause and, over time, may result in ‘tolerance’ (where the medication’s effectiveness declines). In the long term, you’ll need a more sustainable solution that can work with you to help strengthen yourself and minimise your pain. I.e., a brace.
A high-quality brace like our GenuTrain will have a mix of medical-grade compression knit and gel padding. These will work together to stabilise your injured knee and massage key areas to relieve pain.
Stage 2: Restoring strength and mobility
Once you’re comfortable enough to move the joint and apply some pressure, you should start restoring its mobility and building up strength. The way to do this is through a combination of general movement (which you’ll do just by slowly returning to regular routines like walking, cooking, and cleaning) and exercise. Your physio will likely recommend specific exercise sets that target your injury’s support network. For a knee injury, these may include Quad Sets and Hamstring Curls. For an injured elbow, you may need to work on your wrist strength and upper back flexibility.
But no matter the gentleness of the exercise regimen, we do recommend doing it in a brace. Contrary to popular belief, not all braces result in weaker muscles. That’s right, you won't become reliant on a Bauerfeind brace. Our EpiTrain elbow brace, for example, is a soft compression brace that works by activating your muscles to help them better act as joint supports. When you’re exercising or just going about your day, you’ll be able to enjoy your usual range of motion while still having an additional layer of support to help you heal and avoid re-injury.
Stage 3: Protection against re-injury
That brings us to the final stage of recovery. There are few things as annoying as finally getting rid of knee pain only to have it come back again in force because you walked too far or bent your leg wrong. Typically, injuries will recur following inappropriate treatment. Through bracing, strengthening, and restoring your mobility, that’s half the work sorted. The other half is to keep this up after the pain’s gone away.
Braces will help your body’s natural recovery processes along, but if you stop too early, you risk a flare-up. Even if your knee, elbow, back, etc., feels better, your tissues may not have fully healed, your muscles may not be at their original strength yet, and you may still have some instability. Hence, we recommend you still wear your brace in day-to-day life and ESPECIALLY during strenuous activities like sports.
Some things to consider
To get the most out of your brace, it will need to be made of quality materials and fit you perfectly. That's why we recommend our Train line of back, elbow, ankle, wrist, and knee supports: its extensive sizing system, form-fitted gel pads and stays, and medical-grade compression make it the perfect companion for injury recovery and training against pain. It’s also why we don't recommend neoprene braces or other cheap alternatives. The lower price often comes at the cost of mass manufacturing and no regulated compression standards, meaning the brace won't be as effective in joint pain relief or support.
Learn more: Why You Should Reconsider Your Neoprene Brace
TO SUM UP
Recovering from a joint injury isn't always straightforward, quick, or easy. That's why having a good recovery process in place is so important. By getting specialist advice, following RICE, wearing a brace, and working to restore strength and mobility, you'll be well on your way to restoring your joint to full health and avoiding re-injury.
If you require assistance selecting the right product for your needs or wearing the brace, call us on 1300 668 466 or contact us via live chat.
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