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Chronic pain is fairly standard for active people, no matter what your age.

For active people both young and old(er), the issue could be nagging knee or shoulder pain, tightness in your lower back, shin splints, or a wide range of other problems that most of us feel can be managed.

Perhaps the issue is an early sign of something more serious that, with proper attention, could nip a longer-term issue in the bud.

But in dealing with athletes and active fitness people the thought of going to a doctor is seen as a sign of weakness, and is avoided until the situation is far more severe.

So if you’re the self-diagnosing type, here are the main areas of joint pain we see in our athletes and adults most often…along with some recommendations on whether this is more likely an urgent matter, or something you can attempt to manage in the short-term.

Keep in mind I am 100% not a medical professional, these are entirely my opinions only.

However, these opinions come from seeing literally thousands of athletes and exercisers deal with injuries.

And since 30% of all adults at any given time report having joint pain, along with a likely higher percentage of athletic kids, it’s an issue that needs a solution.

JOINT PAIN CAUSE #1 – OVERUSE

Do you play sports year-round?

Have you been training harder than normal lately?

Are you one to never take a break even when your body cries out for help?

If so, sheer overuse could be the source of your problem. You could be looking at a mild case of tendonitis, something a bit more severe (stress fractures, etc), or something in between.

If you have a joint or area that constantly bothers you and this sounds like you, giving complete rest to the area in question could be all it takes.

And I am aware of how obvious this sounds, but this is far and away the most common problem and solution to chronic joint pain we’ve seen in active people over the years. It is just as hard to slow down an active lifestyle as it can be to speed up a sedentary one.

SUGGESTION: In this case rest just might be the solution to your problem. Remove all physical strains on the affected area for about a week and see if you don’t notice some improvement. If you don’t it could be a sign of more serious overuse OR it could be a bigger issue. With no change after a full week I’d seek out a medical professional.

JOINT PAIN CAUSE #2 – MOVEMENT PATTERN CHANGED BY PREVIOUS INJURY

The funny thing about injuries is that without proper rehabilitation you could be dealing with lingering problems long after the pain subsides. And the issue could reside in a totally different part of your body than where the original injury occurred.

Your running cycle could be forever changed by a sprained ankle, or even shoulder impingement (arms and legs must coordinate when running). A leg injury or even just tightness could change your squatting and deadlifting technique in the weight room, leading to potential back problems.

The list goes on and on, but the bottom line is if you had a serious injury before and didn’t do absolutely everything in your rehab to get back to full health, there may be a lingering issue.

SUGGESTION: If you’ve ruled out Cause #1 AND have had a past injury, I’d get your pain checked out right away. Many physical therapists and other professionals can quickly observe your posture and/or movements to detect the problem, and get you quickly on the path to full health once again.

JOINT PAIN CAUSE #3 – ASYMMETRIES DUE TO SPORT & TRAINING With no major injury history and overuse ruled out, the next biggest joint pain issue we see is unbalanced training. This is not a new phenomenon, especially in younger athletes, but is becoming more common.

Here’s an example. Let’s say a soccer player comes to you complaining of chronic left knee pain, but no problem with their right leg. They have no major injury history, and have not been doing any more physical activity than normal lately.

Upon digging deeper you observe this athlete constantly kicks with their right leg and leans to their plant (left) leg repeatedly, putting the full load of their bodyweight on this one leg, day after day, for years.

Bingo. A left-right imbalance is created over time.

This can take place due to training, as well. Too much bench press and squats, not enough pulling and hamstring work is another common cause, albeit not the only one.

Beyond athletics and training, it could even be as simple as a repetitive work issue. If you have to pick things up repeatedly at your job (a UPS worker is a common example) and do it turning the same way each time this will eventually create an asymmetry.

SUGGESTION: Take a good, honest look at your sport technique, running stride, training regimen, and any other physical activity in your life. It is possible that you are creating the problem yourself and need to change your routine or techniques. For those who have been to PT or another health professional but see the same issue continue to come back, there’s a great chance you have a training/lifestyle issue creating your imbalance.

JOINT PAIN CAUSE #4 – POOR POSTURE AND/OR BREATHING HABITS

Slumped shoulders, toes turned out, overextended spines, these are all potential joint pain culprits.

Without any training at all, how you carry yourself all day can cause some muscles to tighten and others to lengthen. And with that you passively create the same issue as in Cause #3.

Further, it could even be how you breathe that is causing your pain. This is a groundbreaking area that is quickly gaining traction in the medical and strength & Conditioning fields, thanks to organizations like the Postural Restoration Institute, among others.

SUGGESTION: Become obsessively aware of your posture and try to ‘catch yourself’ in relaxed poses. Do you slump? Are your toes out? What is your typical spine position like? Do you lean more to one leg or the other when standing?

If you find an issue take a month and dedicate yourself to changing the habit. Even if it doesn’t take away your current pain it surely will prevent a future issue from popping up.

For those more serious about improving their breathing and postural habits. Seek out a trained professional. PRI specialists can be found in a range of fields, from PT’s to strength coaches to chiropractors and beyond.

Most adults have at least one little nagging pain they manage routinely. Kids playing sports year-round (meaning most of them these days) are prone to seeing similar issues.

Taking a ‘No Pain, No Gain’ mindset to your body’s cries for help is not recommended, not wise, and is likely to lead to bigger problems down the road.

If you are currently dealing with joint pain, narrow down your best guess to one of the four categories above and take the necessary steps to fix the problem sooner rather than later.

You may never realize what catastrophe you avoided, but better to not know than become part of the growing list of injured athletes and fitness enthusiasts.



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