The Key to Healthy Joints
The Key to Healthy Joints
Our joints are the foundations of all human movement. If a joint can not function the way it should, then our bodies will begin to create compensations for those disfunctions. From improper body mechanics, to disc degeneration, osteoarthritis and other abnormalities. But why is that?
Joints were created to move, and to move constantly. Therefore, as humans, we are meant to be in constant motion. All joints are avascular. Meaning that the cartilage and all other tissues that make up our joints do not have any direct blood supply to them. There is a reason for that. The reason being that if we had had arteries and veins within our joints, we would crush them with compressive loads. So how do our joints receive the proper blood flow to them? They rely 100% on movement. That is the key to have and maintain healthy joints!
Like all our tissues, they rely on blood flow to provide oxygen and the right nutrients in order to stay healthy. When we move our joints, they receive oxygen and nutrition from the surrounding joint fluid by diffusion. During movement pressure expresses fluid and waste products out of the cartilage cells and brings in newly oxygenated blood and fluid back into the cells. This process happens even more effectively when we express full range of motions.
What happens when we don’t move our joints? For one, our joints eventually will begin to degenerate. Due to lack of oxygen and nutrients, over time our joints will begin to degenerate which can lead to inflammation (osteoarthritis), and eventually lose the cushion and glide that cartilage provides. This then lessens the space within our joints which will only increase inflammatory conditions and cause more discomfort over time by compressing on other structures such as nerves. A recent study suggested that osteoarthritis is not a condition due to aging, but more likely due to lack of movement. Also, not only is the cartilage affected but the entire joint capsule which is made up of all of the surrounding tissues such as ligaments, bursas, tendons, fascia etc. All of those tissues also begin to lose their integrity for the same reasons stated above.
Another thing that occurs when we don’t mobilize our joints over time is the loss of motor control. Our nervous system and brain is what controls and governs all movement. When we stop mobilizing and expressing our full ranges of motion, our brain loses the neural synapses or connections that tell our muscles to move in such ways. Ever try to do a new exercise or movement and felt silly doing it because you can’t do it? Or try to move in a way that you were able to in the past but can’t? This is one of the reasons why.
Thirdly, due to loss of mobility and motor control, your body will lay down fibrosis or “scar tissue” of those tissues so they become adhered to one another. Healthy connective tissues should glide smoothly over one another. When they are adhered they become stuck to each other, creating tension and even causing friction over each other and other structures such as nerves. Our brains main function is to keep us alive and conserve as much energy as it can. So, when we stop moving it is as if our brain detects that loss of mobility and says “Hey, looks like he is not using his shoulder as much, so lets not waste any energy there and scar it up.” These adhesions can not only lead to tension and stiffness, but also loss or range of motion.
The good news is that our body was created to adapt to the stress and demands that we give it. It is able to create new brain synapses and restore motor control. It can heal most degenerated joints by bringing in new blood flow into them daily. It can remodel that scar tissue over time so that you regain that range of motion you lose. Your body, regardless of age is ready to adapt and get stronger. We just need to be willing to put in some time and effort.
That is why Functional Range Conditioning encourages full end range joint mobility daily. I teach my clients how to perform Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) which is a way to fully express your current ranges of motion of all your joints from head to toe. CARs is a great way to maintain joint health, create joint stability and resiliency, and help assess articular health. The best time to perform these rotational exercises are in the morning. There’s a lot of stagnant fluid within our joints when we get out of bed, but truly there is no bad time in which you can perform these exercises.
If you’d like to learn this mobility routine or would like to know more about how you can improve your joint health and overall mobility let me know. I would be more than happy to set up a session with you and go through the routine with you. I guarantee, that which some good consistency you will feel the difference, and your joints will thank you.