Every day you rely on your elbow for dozens of actions. And unless your elbow is inflamed or injured, you probably take it for granted. This month, we're taking a closer look at this important joint.
Structure and Function
The elbow is both a hinge and pivot joint that allows you to bend, extend, and rotate your arm. It connects the end of the upper arm bone (distal humerus) to the bones of the forearm (radius and ulna) with ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
What Causes Discomfort
Chronic inflammation at the origin of the extensor forearm muscles is often referred to as “tennis elbow” (lateral epicondylitis) although you don't have to play tennis to get it. Repetitive strain from any type of overuse – repeated contractions of forearm muscles you use to straighten and raise your hand and wrist – can result in tiny tears to the tendons. This can result in discomfort that makes it difficult to perform simple tasks such as turning a doorknob, holding a cup or shaking hands. Usually rest, ice and a mild pain reliever such as acetaminophen will ease the soreness. But trust your instincts and contact your doctor if you're in severe pain.
Safe Ways To Build Strength
The best way to avoid tennis elbow is by regularly stretching and strengthening your arm muscles. Use correct techniques, movements and equipment during physical activities. Make sure to warm up. Don't overuse one arm and alternate hands whenever possible. And keep the muscles of your arms, shoulders and upper back strong to help take stress off your elbows.
Your elbow joint performs two types of movement: flexion-extension (bending-straightening) and pronation-supination (turning the palm down and up). Exercise through your complete range of motion, using the following:
- Exercise Bands provide resistance throughout the exercise. Do wrist curls, wrist rotations, bicep curls, triceps extensions and reverse curls to work all your muscles.
- Dumbbells are highly effective for building strength in your forearm and upper arm. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions three days a week, resting on days between workouts. And find the weight that's a challenge to lift but not so heavy that you can't complete your reps.
- Barbells: Perform multiple reps of basic exercises twice a week to build muscle mass and strengthen your upper arms. Elbow-strengthening exercises include wrist curls, reverse curls and triceps extensions.
- Bodyweight Exercises: Push-ups, pull-ups or chin-ups are excellent ways to use your own body to build elbow strength. Push-ups work the triceps muscles on the back of your upper arms, while pull-ups target your flexing and gripping muscles. Fitness experts suggest aiming for three to four sets of 10 to 25 repetitions every three or four days.
You can do even more for your joints by eating right and making sure you get enough vitamins and minerals. Schiff® Guided Minerals Cal-Mag-Zinc provides several vital nutrients for healthy bones, teeth, muscle function and more.
- Calcium is crucial for building strong bones and teeth, muscle function, release of hormones and enzymes, and transmission of neural impulses.
- Magnesium activates B vitamins, relaxes muscles, and helps maintain proper blood pressure, energy levels, and normal heart function and nerve transmission.
- Vitamin D is necessary for calcium metabolism.
- Zinc is an essential trace mineral necessary for the activity of more than 300 enzymes.
If you're 55 or older, be aware that your nutritional needs are changing. A number of nutrients are needed to maintain a healthy immune and cardiovascular system. Schiff® Prime Years Multivitamin is specially formulated to help promote your general health and well-being.
Beyond Glucosamine and Chondroitin
You've probably heard the buzz about glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health. Schiff® Move Free® Advanced has the advantage of four potent ingredients to help comfort sore joints:
- Glucosamine helps strengthen, protect and lubricate joints.
- Chondroitin lubricates and cushions joints.
- Uniflex® helps keep joints working better and feeling younger by protecting cartilage and synovial (joint) fluid from harmful oxidants that accelerate the breakdown of cartilage and joint tissues
- Joint Fluid (Hyaluronic Acid) helps lubricate, rejuvenate, rehydrate and repair joints.
Move Free® Advanced Plus MSM provides the added benefit of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a natural source of sulfur found in the body that's important in the formation of joint collagen. This formula contains the tested amount of MSM (1500 mg) shown to support joint comfort and soothe soreness. And Move Free® Advanced Plus MSM & Vitamin D has all these ingredients plus Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your bones absorb calcium better and retain the calcium that's already in them. This is important because your bones lose calcium as you age.
Be proactive about protecting your elbows and joints. Fitness is quite literally within your reach!