Joint Injuries

How Joints Get Injured And How To Treat Them by Ken Kinakin, D.C., C.S.C.S.

This article will discuss two types of injuries that can happen to joints when powerlifting.

These injuries are either a compression or shearing injury that can happen to joints that can cause pain and multiple muscle weakness patterns.

In the compression type of injury, the trauma is directed mostly to the joint itself. This type of injury has little or no tearing of the tissues and swelling, if present, is limited to the joint capsule. The stress of the weight effects mechanoreceptors and nociceptors (little receptors that give the body information about position, load and pain) in the joint structure. This type of injury appears to affect the internal structures of the joint that can exhibit a common finding of multiple muscle weaknesses, especially muscles that cross that joint. Joints that can be affected by this is the ankle, knee, lumbar, thoracic, cervical joints. The exercises that can affect these joints are usually ones with heavy axial loading such as heavy squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, etc. These heavy loads can compress the joints enough to create an abnormal firing of joint receptors and change the normal tone and strength of the muscles that surround that joint. Repeated joint traction of these joints can normalize the firing of the joint receptors and reestablish the normal tone and strength of the muscles.

The second type of joint injury can occur from a shearing – tearing action that can injure multiple structures. This the most common type of joint injury and occurs when joints and related structures are strained and twisted causing injury to muscles, ligaments, skin and receptors of the joints. Any joint in the body can be affected by a shearing – tearing injury by virtually any exercise. The shearing type of joint injury will cause a muscle weakness of the muscles that cross the joint. The weakness muscle pattern will cause a strain on ligaments which will cause residual pain over the ligaments. Ligaments are the structures that cross and stabilize the joint and when stressed abnormally, will cause a weakness in the muscles that cross that joint. There are certain receptors in ligaments that when they are overloaded will cause a reflex muscle weakness. This is because the muscles will not function properly or with full strength in a unstable joint. This is a protective mechanism that keeps the muscle weak preventing further damage to the joint. Depending on the severity of the injury and the length of time before initiation of treatment, the patient will adapt to their injury and require treatment for muscle incoordination and imbalances. This will cause a secondary reason for pain and weakness in the muscle when doing the exercise, long after the initial injury. Limitation of range of motion can indicate an imbalance of the prime movers and synergistics and antagonists. An example of this would be doing the squat improperly and inducing an injury to the knee. This will cause a abnormal stress on the knee ligaments and reflexly cause a weakness of the muscles that cross that joint such as the quadriceps and hamstrings. If the injury to the knee is not treated and rehabilitated immediately and properly, this can cause an imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings and create more pain and weakness. If the imbalance is severe enough or been for a long period of time, this can also cause a stress in other joints and can cause weaknesses in other muscles unrelated to the original injury. This can affect your training and can hamper your gains.

Again it is the usually the feeling that if you take a week or two off training or training the body part, that the injury will go away. In mild injuries, you can heal and restore normal function and muscle strength. But in larger injuries, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible to speed healing and prevent abnormal muscle weaknesses and patterns.

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