Injuries to joints are very common, especially amongst sportspeople and those who exercise frequently. Usually, a joint is injured when it is stretched past its normal range of movement, which causes the surrounding ligaments, muscles or tendons to stretch or tear. Joint injuries range from a mild sprain through to more severe tears, and also include fractures or dislocations of the joint.
Knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and wrists are the most affected joints and pain can be quite severe for a major injury. Initially acute pain and inflammation will be experienced, accompanied by restricted range of movement of the affected area.
Treatment for Joint Injuries
Early treatment is essential for a joint injury, to decrease pain and improve the length of time for healing. For minor injuries, some rest and immobilisation of the affected area is all you may need for a couple of weeks. During this time the repairing process will begin and in the following month or two the damaged tissues will heal thoroughly.
However, a more serious injury will also cause a decrease in strength in the affected part of the body and balance and stability of the joint will also be reduced. Under these circumstances you are at a higher risk of lower overall movement performance and chances of further injury is greater.
It is recommended that you seek professional assistance with a joint injury, particularly a more severe one. A tailored rehabilitation program can be arranged by your sports physiotherapist following an initial consultation. The team of physios at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy are experienced in all types of joint injuries and will undertake a thorough assessment of your injury as well as discuss your lifestyle and any previous injuries.
Strength exercises are key in a rehab program as they are designed to support the affected area by building muscle strength and to regain the function and stability in the injured joint. Functional exercises that focus on balance will also be incorporated, to improve stability and proprioception, which is the awareness or sense of our joint and limb positioning. If you play a particular sport then the specific movements involved in play will be taken into account to get you ready to return to it as soon as possible.
What is Proprioception & Why is it Important?
As mentioned, proprioception is the sense of our body, the awareness that we know where our limbs and body parts are and the movements they are making. It is a neuromuscular skill that lets us have complex movements without conscious thought, and like riding a bike we need to practice it in order to improve it.
We have receptors in our muscles and joints that are called proprioceptors that give constant information to our brain about where our body is in space and the sensations we feel. For example, you are able to touch your nose with your finger while your eyes are closed, or know whether you are feeling a hard or soft surface without having to look.
Proprioception allows precise and fluid movements in our everyday life, and while playing sport. Think about a footy player being able to leap up to take a mark and knowing how high to reach their hands to catch the ball, or a tennis player being able to change direction instantly without having to think about which direction their feet need to go.
Does My Proprioception Need Improvement?
It may not be something you have considered, but there are some simple tests you can do to determine whether your proprioception needs some work. Your sports physio will be able to show you various tests that will show any deficiencies you have due to a joint injury or imbalance. There are some more specific tests that you can do if you are a play sport that involves change of direction, running or ball skills.
Once your proprioception has been tested, a program can be devised to train it, in a similar way to a progressive strength program, beginning simply and gradually increasing the intensity. With regular practice you can notice improvement quickly, in just a few weeks.
Speak with your sports physio about the exercises that will suit you, but they will generally focus on balance and strength. Before you know it, you will realise you are able to balance better and have greater stability while performing certain drills.
Regardless of your activity level, and whether you are injured or not, proprioception exercises are great for overall movement, balance and coordination, and will help to prevent injury.
Getting some advice on how to incorporate just a few minutes of these exercises to your weekly routine will soon have your body moving with confidence. Speak to a specialised physio over the phone or book an appointment online.