The Importance of Joint Supplementation:
It’s January 14, 2012, day one of the 2012 OC Throwdown. I am mid WOD in the Clean & Jerk/ Muscle-up couplet. I was a little nervous to start this WOD because it was pretty heavy, but not of the muscle-ups. I love gymnastics movements. But after several rounds the rep count required continues to climb, 1, 3, 5, 7, & 9, and I hit muscle fatigue. I continue to press on, but a ring gets away from me. It was in this instant that I injured my shoulder. As soon as I finished the workout I knew I had a serious injury that would sideline me for some time. After a month or two, I finally had an MRI and confirmed my fear; I tore the labrum in my left shoulder and the synovial fluid from the joint was leaking and creating a cyst that pressed against a nerve. I recall being so depressed, believing that I would never compete again or at least never at a high level.
Fast forward one year. It’s January 13, 2013 and I am standing on the podium at the 2013 OC Throwdown finishing 2nd in the Master’s Division. So what happened? How was I able to overcome this injury?
I made a choice not to have surgery; and truth be told, my labrum is still torn. The labrum does not have the ability to heal itself. But I have been able to overcome this issue by doing a few simple things.
Initially I had to sit out for some time. Months went by and I would not perform any pulling or pressing movements. One reason was because it still hurt like hell and secondly, because I realized that the shoulder was inflamed and needed time for that inflammation to go down. When I did finally get back to using the shoulder, I recognized that I had lost a lot of strength. I started slowly and strengthened the shoulder little by little. I had to ensure the muscles around the shoulder could compensate for the tear. This is still a work in progress and I will probably never recover full strength in some ranges of motion.
I recognized I needed some help and regularly had Active Release Technique (ART) therapy sessions with Dr. Bill Porath at Synergy Sports Care in Orange. Dr. Bill has been an amazing help on my road to recovery. Professionally administered physical therapy is a must when recovering from a major injury. Not only has he PT’d my shoulder, but he provided me with stretches and strengthening movements to help the recovery.
Prior to injuring the shoulder I never took joint supplements, but now I am a firm believer in their power. In fact, this is the primary purpose for this post, to discuss joint supplementation and encourage YOU to start using them. You don’t have to wait for an injury like I did to start, we CrossFitters are hard on our joints and all of us would benefit from daily joint supplements.
Joints such as our shoulders and knees require cartilage and synovial fluid to operate properly. Cartilage is the soft tissue layer on either side of the joint that cushions the ends of the bones. Joints have a small reservoir of synovial fluid between them that lubricate the moving parts and enable them to slide freely.
Athletes are tough on their joints due to repetitive and impacting movements. These movements damage cartilage, creating rough spots that can eventually lead to degradation of the cartilage. These movements are also tough on the synovial fluid. Whenever the intensity of your exercise causes the rate of wear and tear to exceed the maximum rate at which you can produce new cartilage and synovial fluid, you get inflammation, pain, and stiffness of the joints.
Luckily there are several joint supplements for athletes that help to repair cartilage and reduce the risk of joint injury, pain and discomfort. There have also been numerous advancements in joint supplementation in recent years, which have been able to assist our body’s ability to absorb the supplements when taken in pill form.
The BIG FIVE:
Glucosamine is made of glucose and the amino acid glutamine. It is already present in the body, but athletes can take glucosamine to prevent the breakdown of joint cartilage and to promote new cartilage formation, according to the Sports Injury Bulletin. Glucosamine may also help to preserve the joints during heavy training and long running sessions
We must make sure that joint cartilage stays strong and elastic. Chondroitin supplements can prevent cartilage damage and support joint health by lubricating the joints. Chondroitin prevents the joints from becoming too stiff after intensive exercise or due to the aging process, and it also reduces the risk of overuse injuries in athletes.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)
Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in the body and specifically in our joints after intensive exercise, reports the Master Runner. By reducing inflammation, it can help to decrease morning stiffness, tender or swollen joints and joint pain.
According to Condition Nutrition, methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, provides sulfur, which helps promote healing and growth of the tissues after intensive exercise. MSM is a natural substance that is already present in the body and creates a flexible bond between proteins. MSM supplements can help relieve joint soreness and aching muscles, and also rebuild damaged cartilages after exercise.
A major component of our joint lubricating system (Synovial Fluid) is hyaluronan. Dr. Michael Colgan states that Hyaluronic Acid supplementation increases the body’s own production of synovial fluid. In fact, in extreme cases, doctors will inject Hyaluronic Acid directly into the knee joint to increase cushioning and relieve pain.
Ladies! Hyaluronic Acid is also a major component of the skin and is used in a lot of skin care products. Supplementation can boosts the elasticity and hydration of the skin.
Luckily you don’t have to go purchase all of these individually. Most online and store front health and vitamin stores sell joint health products that contain most, if not all of these listed supplements. I hope you will seriously consider starting a joint supplement program. The last thing you want is to feel like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, looking for your oil can in the morning.