Where two bones come together, you have a joint: stabilised by ligaments, surrounded by muscles and protected by cartilage which prevents friction and provides all-important shock absorption.
Keeping your joints healthy should be one of your top priorities as a runner – but how? And what to do if you run – geddit? – into difficulties?
We’re here with six tips to keep your joints healthy, flexible and pain-free.
1) Motion is lotion. Daily movement is your friend here – but not just any old movement. Put all of your joints through the full range of motion in order to ensure they’re well-lubricated and can perform those vital accessory movements (the spins, rolls and glides which the joint goes through automatically and without conscious effort when you move it). Ten minutes of yoga a day is a great way to make sure your joints are getting the movement they need to stay healthy.
2) Do a proper warm up. A dynamic set of stretches plus a bit of cardio to get the heart rate going helps gets those joints lubricated and prevents cartilage degeneration. To make life easy, we’ve even put together our top tips for warming up – just take a look here.
3) Strength is wealth. Your muscles protect your joints, and making them stronger means that they take on more of the strain. Strength training is a really valuable addition to any runner’s training schedule, improving your performance and helping you avoid all sorts of injuries. Check out our strength training advice here.
4) Pain? Get it checked out properly. When runners complain of pain, it can be easy to ignore it or dismiss it as ‘wear and tear’. Don’t make the situation worse: see a physiotherapist who specialises in sport and running for a professional view and a rehabilitation programme to get you lacing up and back on the streets.
5) Try a chiropractor. Chiropractors aren’t just for backs. Although many runners swear by regular spine aligning, you can also see your chiropractor to help keep your ankle, knee and lower back joints flexible, freeing up all your energy for your running performance.
6) Investigate acupuncture. Acupuncture is a complementary therapy involving inserting needles at particular points to restore the balance of energy or “Qi” (pronounced “chee”) and relieve pain and illness. It’s believed to be a way of stimulating the body’s own healing chemicals to aid recovery and maximise rehabilitation – either alone or in conjunction with other treatments. Some runners swear by it for relaxing tight muscles and tissues and relieving associated pains.