The connection between balance, the elbow, and the wrist isn’t obvious. After all, we don’t rely on those joints to keep our weight balanced and upright. But we do depend on those joints – and the muscles that surround them – for almost all of our activities.
Balanced function in the upper extremity is essential for not just going about our days without pain or limitation, but it also takes on a new value when we consider our ability to play sports like tennis, golf, and yes, even America’s newest sport’s craze, pickleball.
We explore the benefits of balance to support your performance goals, ranging from living pain-free or excelling in your favorite sport.
We use our hands for more than just responding to emails on our laptops and sending text messages from our smartphones. Many of us now leave our desks and head directly to the pickleball courts to play our newfound favorite sport. Pickleball is a sport that offers a way to be social, an outlet to laugh, and most importantly, an avenue to be active.
Perfecting that forehand and backhand would be impossible without the involvement of the wrist and elbow. Although the shoulder produces most of the force from which the hand ultimately benefits, it’s the elbow that transforms that force into a controlled shot. And, it’s the wrist that enables the hand to deliver that power with the precision needed for the perfect dink or third shot drop.
Balance Produces Benefits
All things being perfect, every shot would be delivered with the ideal balance of power and precision. The key to consistent performance rests with our body’s alignment. We have eight load joints (the shoulders, hips, knees & ankles), which are designed to be aligned vertically and horizontally. When our body is balanced in this manner, our joints work optimally with our muscles to produce all the versatile movements needed in sports.
Your ability to hit the perfect tee shot or deliver a winning cross-court volley depends on your joints and muscles working in a balanced manner to create controlled movement. Your shoulder, elbow, and wrist are no different. The muscles in your arm work in concert with your joints to enable your hand to control your racket or club without pain or limitation. In a perfect world that is.
If balance produces benefits, then it’s safe to assume that imbalances produce consequences.
Welcome to the world we all actually live in. For most of us, our eight load joints are not all aligned. Our environment, with little movement and lots of sitting, makes it easy to develop muscle imbalances that shift our alignment and limit our ability to move freely and without pain.
This cause-and-effect relationship is important. Muscles need motion to stay healthy and balanced. Sedentary muscles become stiff and weak, and in many cases, start to atrophy. As muscle imbalance sets in, other muscles must compensate and pick up the slack, creating an even greater misalignment in the balance of work. Ultimately, this misalignment disrupts the body’s ability to distribute effort and stress over a balanced system of muscles, joints, and bones, leaving overworked areas vulnerable to injury. Pain, limited movement, and time on the sideline invariably follow.
For many of us, staying pain-free and active is good enough, but tack on the added performance benefits of balance and it seems harder and harder to settle for our typical out-of-balance status quo.
What a joy it would be to live, work, and play PAIN FREE! With a few, simple exercises targeted to your needs, you can be well on your way to eliminating pain and injury and improving your performance. The ball is in your court!