In my osteopathic work I encounter many patients with injured joints. These may be acute injuries such as a sprain all the way through to more long term problems such as osteoarthritis and joints damaged by autoimmune diseases.
I often hear the term ‘wear and tear’ and ‘it must be my age’. If you read my words regularly you’ll see that I’m never that impressed with the age excuse. I’m not too impressed with wear and tear either.
However, rather than worrying too much about why our joints may start to show problems let us focus more on maintaining good joint health as we get older.
Our joints are made of two bones that generally fit together due to their shape such as the ball and socket joint of the hip. Our shoulder is an exception as it has the ball but no proper socket, this means it is both highly mobile and unstable at the same time, hence shoulder injuries are relatively easy to sustain.
Lining the end of the bone where the joint is we have smooth cartilage which enables friction free movement. Covering the joint is a bag like capsule called the synovium which produces synovial fluid to lubricate the joint. This fluid is also full of nutrients which feed the joint.
Synovial fluid has a thixotrophic quality which means when we put pressure into our joint from movement it turns from a watery substance to a gel like goo which enables more effective shock absorbing.
These simple qualities indicate the most effective way to keep a joint healthy. Keep it moving. Movement washes the nutrients from synovial fluid over the joint surfaces thus feeding and aiding repair of the cartilage and it also protects the joint by causing the fluid to thicken.
Most arthritic change is actually caused by disuse, not wear and tear because sitting at desks and in front of the TV prevents the fluid from feeding your joint properly. Prolonged lack of use also causes muscles to shorten which begins to restrict freedom of movement.
So remedy number one for any joint problem is pain free repetitive movement. Or, if there is no problem, prevent trouble by keeping active and moving every single day. Your body is a moving machine not a sitting machine. Try to move every joint of your body through its whole range of movement every day.
Even small movements that get you nowhere but get a joint moving can help which is worth noting if you have some pain or inability to move as freely as you would like. In a two month study of people with painful arthritic knees who walked for half an hour a day they found their pain levels reduced and mobility improved as well as seeing all kinds of other benefits to their blood sugar levels and mood.
There are various supplements that can help your joints too from the ever reliable cod liver oil to glucosamine and chondroitin. Rosehip oil is good too. Choosing a supplement is very much a matter of personal choice, experience and budget of course – find what works for you.
However, I cannot stress enough the profoundly powerful effects of movement which is far more potent than any drug you can take and brings side effects of more energy, a healthy heart and better sleep – what are you waiting for? Get moving folks!
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