Muscle groups and bones do not work independently from each other in the body, which is why it is important to take care of them with low impact activities.
Advisor: Jorge Iván Palacio Uribe
Sports Medicine Specialist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
While two different pains don’t appear to be connected by their location in the body, a problem with your ankle, for example, may cause discomfort in the lumbar spine. Why? The bones and muscles of the human body do not work independently from each other. As Jorge Palacio explains, a sports medicine specialist, all joints and muscle groups are a fundamental part of the body and sometimes, a single change in how the lower extremities function can even affect the structures of the upper body.
“For example: the knee is a very important joint because in order to walk, it is very connected with the ankle and the hip. If you change the way you walk, you affect all the structures from that point up and from that point down. When people with knee injuries change the way they walk, they cause changes in the hip and in the lumbar region, which is why abnormal postures can cause everything to start to hurt,” the sports medicine specialist explains.
This is how, in addition to making for stronger muscle mass and muscle tone, musculoskeletal health also affects how the joints function. Bones and muscles therefore depend on each other, and are inextricably linked.
Habits are key
Diet and exercise are clear essentials: dairy products for bones, and protein for muscles. However, and while much has been said, the postures we hold when we sit, stand and sleep are also influential when it comes to caring for our musculoskeletal health. But to what extent are we aware of this?
“If you have bad posture when you sit, your back will start to hurt. If, on top of this, you always have a significant bend in your knee, this joint will also begin to wear down. Bad posture can even cause damage to different joints. Because everything is connected, when a joint is affected, those that surround it can also be affected, even if they are far away,” states Dr. Palacio.
It is important to keep in mind that exercises that are not performed correctly, without good technique or with excess weight, can also affect the bones and muscles. Similarly, people who drive for long periods may develop knee and spine problems. However, as our expert points out, of the things that cause joint pain, the most painful is sarcopenia: the loss of muscle mass that occurs as a result of physical inactivity and the aging process.
Other important tips include choosing the right mattress (avoiding the soft ones that make your back curve), using ergonomic chairs that protect the natural curve of your spine, sitting at a right angle, using footrests and taking active breaks to interrupt your inactivity and decrease the risk of injury.
Last, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends that to have strong bones and prevent the loss of bone mass as we age, you must get enough calcium and vitamin D, as well as avoid cigarettes and alcohol.
5 exercises to do in the water
According to our sports medicine specialist, due to the resistance that exercising underwater creates, practicing these type of low impact activities is significantly beneficial to our musculoskeletal health, even for those with hip, spine and joint conditions. For best results, complement this activity with impact exercises such as walking or jogging, provided you don’t have any knee problems, especially with jogging. The following are five water exercises as recommended by the U.S. Arthritis Foundation.
1. Arm circles
- Raise both arms in front of you until they are a few centimeters below the water’s surface.
- Keep both elbows extended and make small circles with your arms.
- Gradually, increase the size of the circles, then decrease them again.
- First circle to the right, then to the left. Do not lift your arms out of the water or let them cross each other.
Lateral leg lift (abduction and hip adduction)
- Stand with your side next to the pool wall and with your knees relaxed.
- Swing your leg from side to side, towards the center of the pool and back towards the wall, crossing it in front of the other leg.
- Repeat this sequence with the other leg.
- Stand with your side next to the pool wall and hold on to keep your balance.
- Stand up straight with your legs slightly apart and with one leg in front of the other.
- Keep your body upright, lean forward and slowly flex the knee that is in front. You will feel a calf stretch in your back leg. Keep the heel of this leg on the floor.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
Leg swing (hip extension and flexion)
- Stand with your side next to the pool wall and keep your balance.
- Lift up your thigh parallel to the surface of the water, as high as is comfortable for you. Lower your leg.
- Gently swing your leg behind you, being careful not to arch your back.
- Repeat with the other side.
- Do this slowly.
Knee lift (hip and knee extension and flexion)
- Stand with your side next to the pool wall.
- Bend your knee and lift up your thigh parallel to the surface of the water, as high as is comfortable for you.
- Place one hand behind your knee if your leg needs support.
- Straighten your knee and lower your leg, keeping your knee extended.
- Keep your ankles and toes relaxed.
- Repeat with the other side.