Poor joint health can lead to inactivity. For those individuals wanting to remain active, preventing joint hyperextension injuries is a crucial part of staying mobile and should an injury occur, treatment techniques such as RICE and well-crafted joint support braces can be the difference between a short absence from activity and more serious issues.
When it comes to sports, exercise and physical activity, our joints play an essential role in how we move…we don’t even give much thought to our knees, elbows, shoulders and hips until one day it happens. You’ve seen it on the field, in the gym and on the courts – athletes wearing knee braces for soccer, wrist braces for kickboxing, an elbow brace for tennis elbow to support an injured arm and the very common ankle brace because of overstretching an ankle tendon. We move in a way our body isn’t meant to move and we’ve suffered a hyperextension injury. You’ll never take your joints for granted after an injury like that. So how do we avoid them so we can maintain, improve and increase our workload so we continue to improve in our exercise and physical activity routines?
First, explaining exactly what hyperextension means is an important point. Each joint in the body moves through a standard range of motion.
For example, the elbow typically can move from a 0 degree position (arm outstretched) to 150 degrees flexed. Hyperextension occurs when the joint is bent/stretched in the opposite direction – in the case of the elbow, if it goes past the 0 degree (straight) point. Hyperextension simply means the joint has been overly stressed past the point where the joint is naturally able to straighten.
And it doesn’t take a very large hyperextension to cause intense pain and serious injury. Hyperextension injuries are compound in nature – they affect not only the bones, but also the soft tissue surrounding the joint including tendons, ligaments, muscles, blood vessels and even skin if the injury is severe enough. Mild overextension of a joint can result in pain and overstretching of the soft tissues, and temporary disuse of the limb if immobilization treatment is sufficient. More severe injuries can lead to not only overstretching, but tearing of the ligaments and the bones that comprise the joint can actually break, causing a much longer recovery period.
Joints such as the shoulder, which are highly mobile with more range of muscle than a simple elbow bend are even more susceptible to hyperextension. Overuse injuries, such as repeated punching during kickboxing with improper form can lead to stretched tendons. Knees can experience hyperextension during forceful movements such a runner stopping or pivoting quickly and the weight of their body causing the joint to straighten too much. Elbow overextension injuries can occur by lifting too much weight with an improperly placed stabilizer below the upper arm.
An important note needs to be made specifically regarding elbow hyperextension – some individuals, particularly those with especially high ranges in flexibility often have joints that safely hyperextend without injury.
Joints serve a crucial purpose, not only in everyday life but in the exercise routines we do too, so how can we prevent hyperextension from becoming a barrier to us reaching our fitness goals? Or if hyperextension already occurred, what’s the best way to treat so we can get back in the game?
The beauty about prevention is that it will also help you in the long run, no matter what exercise routine you prefer. Preventing hyperextension is as simple (and as complicated!) as using good form, every single time you participate in the activity.
Moving using good body mechanics, making sure the appropriate muscles are strong enough to support the movements being performed and stopping the movements when become overly fatigued will go a long way to preventing hyperextension injuries.
Prevention will look very different depending on the activity.
- Weight lifting: During weight training, it can be an easy slip to overarch the spine during certain exercises, particularly when a slight arch is desirable. Ensuring a strong core can help, as well as lifting the appropriate amount of weights at a safe speed. Finding one of the best tennis elbow brace for weighlifting can help if you’re finding your muscles not quite stopping the movement before the join extends a bit too much. Following the guidance from a personal trainer when starting a lifting program can help with proper technique and avoiding injury while enhancing gains!
- Boxing or kickboxing: Wrist hyperextension is a major concern when striking a kickboxing bag, mits or a training model. Using proper gear such as wristwraps when first starting out so you gain strength as you learn punch techniques. After becoming more comfortable and confident in your techniques, focusing on that form and not allowing your punches to get ‘sloppy’ will be beneficial in preventing extension injuries.
- Gymnastics: Proper form, good training, and adequate strength training is crucial to help preventing slips that could cause a joint to overextend. Many gymnasts rely on wraps and braces (even those meant for
- Tennis: Overuse and overextension of the elbow during repeated swings leads to one of the most common injuries in sports. Because of the continuous use of the same time of swinging motion, the use of tennis elbow support can assist in healing. Additionally, tennis elbow brace placement is just as important as selecting the proper brace.
But what if the damage is already done, so to speak? You’re already relying on a knee brace or a tennis elbow band? The acronym RICE, while decades old advice, still proves true when it comes to joint health.
- Rest the affected limb. If you find yourself still using the joint during everyday activities that you can’t avoid, a brace can be a huge benefit as it helps you be more conscious of the movements, particularly if the brace is very stiff and prevents much movement.
- Ice the affected joint. This helps alleviate inflammation which can slow down healing.
- Compression – Wearing some kind of a brace, or evaluating if a tennis elbow brace versus a sleeve may provide more compression. This is another treatment techniques that reduces inflammation and supports the injured joint.
- Elevation – Immediately after an overextension injury elevation can also help reduce inflammation (as well as pain).
There are many arguments about what constitutes the best tennis elbow braceor the best knee brace. Sports authority recommendations can be a good place to start, or researching reputable companies like CopperJoint.com for assistive products that will keep you moving so you can keep working on your health and fitness. Don’t want to be sidelined? Take care of those joints!