MUSCLES AREN'T EVERYTHING - PART FOUR
Put that dumbbell down and listen up: muscles aren't everything. Your joints make your whole body tick but like any mechanical system they are prone to wear and tear. Without well functioning joints, it is challenging to add muscle, shed fat or get anything done around the house. To maintain them, you need to understand how they work and the threats they face. Over the next few months, I will tell you how to keep your six major joints in tip top condition. This month, let's look at the elbows. TYPE OF JOINT: Elbows form a hinge joint. Tendons attaching bones to muscles in both the upper and lower arm come together in the elbow area. Ligaments hold bones tightly in place and stabilise the joint. TOP THREAT: Olecranon fracture. A crack or break in the elbows tip. This can result in an open fracture in which the bone sticks through the skin and can cause infection. CAUSE: Usually direct impact with a hard object, such as getting hit by a cricket ball or whacking your elbow against a door frame. Falling on an outstretched arm can also stress the joint enough to separate bone. TREATMENT: If pieces of bone aren't out of place, splinting for about six weeks should allow the fracture to heal. More complex fractures require surgery to realign bone fragments. A graft can fill in bone lost or destroyed. DEFENCE: Other than donning some fetching elbow pads which are worn for protection you could always practice your 'tuck and roll'. On a soft surface, crouch down, bend forward, tuck your head and roll onto one shoulder. Try to curl into a ball as you do so, with your arms for guidance, not shock absorbers. PROTECT YOUR ELBOWS: If you are a golfer or tennis player, for example, take lessons to learn how to swing using your core and whole body, not just your arms. A poor swing puts chronic strain on tendons causing overuse damage that can be difficult to heal. This can result in epicondylitis, a painful inflammation of tendons that connect forearm muscles to bony protrusions called epicondyles on the outside and inside of the elbow. You will know outside (lateral) epicondylitis as tennis elbow and inside (medial) epicondylitis as golfer's elbow but both can appear in either sport. Bonus tip - ease your muscles before a game. Gently rub the forearm muscles to stimulate blood flow to the area around the joint.