Why Do My Joints Ache After Exercise?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

Many of us experience muscle tightness and soreness after exercise, but why do some of our joints ache after exercise? For me it’s my left knee and shoulder; for you maybe it’s your hip or ankle. When your joint aches, it’s because more damage is being caused than you have the ability to repair efficiently. Joint aches after exercise can be warning signs of early arthritis, and it’s important that you proactively head arthritis off at the pass to avoid more serious joint damage. Two ways you can do this are by controlling chronic inflammation and proactively treating aches with your own blood platelets or stem cells.

Controlling Chronic Inflammation

There are ways to stay in control of that old-age chronic inflammation we all tend to get. First, it’s important to understand that some inflammation is good. Without it, our injuries would never heal. Inflammation allows the body to remove cellular debris and bring cells to injured areas to organize healing. This is why, in most cases, blocking that good, healing inflammation with powerhouse nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is usually a bad idea. It’s like hiring a construction crew and then giving them all sedatives. Add to that the high number of risks associated with NSAIDs, and we have to wonder why the general medical community keeps pushing these drugs.

Our concern here is that chronic inflammation isn’t good. We’re talking about the chronic inflammation that is the slow, silent killer in our midst that wreaks havoc on our joints, heart, and brain. When this leads to aches after we exercise it means that the joints are being chemically harmed. In patients with chronic inflammation, their activity level progressively decreases because the inflammation isn’t functioning to finish the repair job. Picture our construction workers out there in 110-degree heat working 24 hours a day 7 days a week year after year, but no job is being completed. How long would it take before they just collapse?

C-reactive protein (CRP) is one blood marker we use to gage the degree of inflammation present. If CRP is 1.0–3.0 you should be concerned about pushing your inflammation levels lower. If it’s above 3.0, in addition to arthritis, you should also be concerned about a higher cardiac risk. To lower CRP, you can follow my anti-inflammatory recommendations for using supplement mixes and regenerative medicine.  After you add in an anti-inflammatory regimen, simply retest your CRP. Perhaps the clearest signs you have chronic inflammation would be if you’re overweight, inactive, middle aged or older with high blood pressure, or you’ve been prescribed drugs for high cholesterol. Genetic predisposition, unfortunately, can also play a part in chronic inflammation.

How can you control your inflammation and tackle your joint aches? If you are overweight, lose the extra weight and adopt a healthy anti-inflammatory diet. Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements that are traditionally associated with treating arthritis pain. However, research has also shown that glucosamine and chondroitin seem to have a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect, not just in the joints, but in other parts of the body as well! Also take a look at our top 10 list for ways to help your stem cells, and read the section below on treating your aching joints with your own growth factors.

Understanding the status of your body’s inflammation can make a huge difference in whether those joint aches are ignored and progress to arthritis or are headed off at the pass in your pursuit of staying active as you age. To learn more about chronic inflammation, refer to “Why Your Body’s Level of Chronic Inflammation May Be Holding You Back” on page 15–18 of my free-download book Regenexx ProActive.

Treatment with Growth Factors If Your Joints Ache After Exercise

Precise minimally invasive injections of your own concentrated blood platelets may prevent small problems from becoming huge issues. The last thing you want is to lose is your ability to exercise or be active, so in my experience, staying ahead of your aging joints using advanced injections may make all the difference in the long run.

Growth factors found in platelets are the active ingredient in platelet rich plasma (PRP), similar to the way that caffeine is the active ingredient in coffee. It’s the growth factors that stimulate the local stem cells to wake up and do their job. There are different types of growth factors that do different things but they all work together to stimulate healing. In your body, this system kicks into gear when you bleed into a wound, which activates the platelets to clot the area and also prompts them to begin pumping out growth factors. This is why doctors have begun to use PRP to amp up healing in an area that hasn’t been able to heal on its own.

You want higher concentrations of certain growth factors and lower concentrations of others. We’ve extensively tested growth factor concentrations in many types of platelet preparations including various types of super-concentrated PRP and lysates. Let me explain.

For example, we’ve seen age have a big effect in that older patients have declining overall growth factors. We can compensate for this by injecting higher platelet concentrations than would be possible using a bedside centrifuge. We’ve seen circumstantial evidence in the lab that older patients may have more receptors on their cells for these growth factors leading to a bigger response to our super concentrated platelets than younger people. So interestingly, while our lab tests shows that younger patients max out their response to a higher concentration of platelets, the cells of older patients seem to be able to respond to higher levels of platelets more than younger cells.

To learn more about platelet growth factors and how they can be used in joints that ache after exercise, refer to “Joint or Body Part Aching After Exercise” on page 12 of Regenexx ProActive.

Being ProActive

When we ignore joint aches after exercise and other warning messages our body sends us as it ages, small musculoskeletal problems can spiral out of control. This can stop us from doing the activities we love or alter the way in which we do them. These issues may lead to more chronic conditions and may permanently reset what we consider to be our normal level of fitness or activity. This is why some people in their 70s can run a marathon while some in their 50s can barely walk a mile.

The ProActive program provides practical advice on understanding these warning signs and taking action to maintain peak performance through middle-age and beyond. Regenexx ProActive explains how the use of biologic treatments, such as stem cells and blood platelet procedures, can help your joints before things go awry, ensuring that small problems don’t go from bad to worse.

The upshot? Popping an anti-inflammatory is not the answer when your joints ache after exercise. While it may make you feel better in the moment, those aching joints could be a sign of early arthritis, and addressing the cause of the inflammation and treating the joint with your own growth factors may just allow you to continue to be active and avoid an arthritis train wreck.

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5 thoughts on “Why Do My Joints Ache After Exercise?

  1. Celeste

    what if I already have osteoarthritis in my knees?
    can Regenexx stave off knee replacements?

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Celeste,
      Yes, that’s the purpose. Treat the arthritis and other causative factors if there are any, and save the knees! http://www.regenexx.com/the-regenexx-procedures/knee-surgery-alternative/

  2. Mary Lou Herald

    I’ve recently had the PRP procedure and still have pain in my knees. I have osteoarthritis bone on bone. Is there anything else they can do to prevent me from having knee replacements?

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Mary Lou,
      Stem cells have much greater regenerative potential than PRP, so that would be the next logical step. Where did you have the PRP procedure?

  3. Tina

    Wow! Informative and revolutionary. Straight forward and well written. Thank you for your work.

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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