Joint health (2)

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Nothing improves

The danger with ignoring your body is that problems usually don't go away. Pretending is easier than changing. If the pain gets bad enough, people make it the doctor's problem.
By then it is often far too late.


Shoulder and neck tension can occur from stooping, leaning the head forward/craning the neck and from exerting with the arms.
The muscles supporting the shoulder are not very strong when you compare them to the enormous muscles of the legs and buttocks.
Poor use of scapula and limited core strength lead to misuse of the shoulder.

Gym shoulders

Many modern people have unhealthy shoulders. Frequently the shoulders are rounded forward, frozen, suffer a rotator cuff injury or shortened trapezius muscles (gym shoulders).
Most of these problems are the outcome of lifestyle choices and bad habits.


The elbow is not a weight bearing joint. People forget that the arm consists of the hand, wrist, lower arm, elbow, upper arm, shoulder joint, shoulder blade and collar bone.
Good usage necessitates reducing stress/workload placed upon both the elbow and shoulder joints.


Many people have no idea what the sacroiliac is or what it does. Often the joint is frozen and other joints are required to compensate for the lack of movement.
Frequently the knees are tasked to do the work of the lower back
In some runners, you can see the work of the sacroiliac being done by the ribcage; this is severely unhealthy and will lead to spine problems.


The hips are connected to the pelvis and the pelvis can only rotate so far before the knees are adversely affected.
Pelvic stability and alignment is the main theme of 'core stability' - in contrast with 'core strength' - which is a different but related concern.
Good use of the pelvis and freedom in the hips and groin facilitates good footwork, healthy knees and improved balance.


The problem often lies with the way in which the knee is being used. Often they are locked straight, bent back (flamingo knees) or bent too deeply.
None of these are good for joint health. Your knees simply need to be relaxed... Not straight, not bent. Just relaxed.


When students are asked to adjust a badly positioned foot, they typically respond, "But that is the way it has grown - it just goes like this."
They are of course correct, but that does not mean that the habitual position is healthy.
The muscles of the legs and feet are responsible for the placement of the bones, and faulty muscle use can be corrected; slowly and patiently.


People usually over-reach when they step - they place too much weight in the stepping leg.
This makes you vulnerable and off-balance; it causes the spine to lean forwards and tilts the pelvis unnecessarily.
In our tai chi class, the spine must remain upright when you step.
The hip must be allowed to move without affecting your vertical alignment and the stepping leg must have no more weight in it than the weight of the leg itself.
This enables you to retract the stepping foot without first needing to shift your weight.

Invest the time

Most joint problems are the outcome of neglect. The only solution is regular on-going, careful attention. Exercise little and often. Develop a regular, logical, systematic routine.
Pay close attention to how you use your body throughout the day, especially if you typically sit down a lot. Cultivate the habit of getting up and moving around a lot more. Do not be lazy

Weight training

In principle, weight training can be useful if your joints are not very mobile.
If you use a light weight and perform the exercises slowly, you will improve muscle tone and range of movement providing you are performing the exercises correctly.
This type of exercise requires research, supervision and caution. Many people are too ambitious or naive and make matters worse through impatience.

Lower grades

Weight training is most appropriate for students who are not very experienced with the art.
Gross movements, overt hinging of the joints and muscular development are useful for people who have a limited grasp of tai chi.
If you are wondering whether you are 'experienced' or not, look at the syllabus. How many forms do you know (and at what level), applications, drills, neigong?


It is important to keep muscles as strong as possible because the stronger the muscles and tissues around joints are, the better they will be able to support and protect those joints.
If people do not exercise, their muscles become weaker, and their bones can become osteoporotic.
Exercise pumps blood and body fluid through to the muscles, tendons and the joints, which will facilitate healing.

(Dr Paul Lam)


Arms     back problems     feet     hands     hip & Groin     joint health     Knees     legs     pelvis     shoulders

Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023