Human joints are what allow us to move and carry out normal daily activities. As many people know far too well, though, joint injury can quickly occur leaving the joint inflamed and painful. The knees, shoulders, ankles, and spine are the most commonly injured joints, with 30 million doctor visits per year taking place for shoulder and knee injuries alone.
How to take care of your joints
Proper nutrition, a healthy exercise regimen, and a healthy lifestyle are all important to long-term joint health. However, the absolute best thing you can do for a joint is moving it through its full range of motion. Doing this serves some crucial purposes. Joints are not directly supplied with blood as your other organs are, so quite literally, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it (the joint function that is). Most of our joints are lined with cartilage which is nourished by synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is moved through the joint via a process called imbibition. This process only occurs when joint movement happens which is why the movement is critical to joint health. When cartilage is not nourished it wears down which causes grinding of bone on bone which leads to degenerative joint disease, bone spurs, cysts, and pain.
How joints get injured
Injuries to joints typically occur when abnormal stresses are placed on a normal joint. A joint can be injured by a single event. An ankle sprain is a classic example; when the ankle moves excessively inward, the ligaments on the outside of the joint are torn. In some cases, small pieces of bone and cartilage may be torn away.
Other joint injuries are called repetitive-stress injuries. These happen when relatively small stresses are repeatedly placed on normal joints. Typically, these repetitive traumas are not noticed for months or years until one day while doing the same thing you’ve done every other day you suddenly notice the pain. These injuries are exacerbated by poor posture, bad joint position while performing a task, and poor workstation ergonomics.
How to prevent repetitive stress injuries
- When lifting an object, be sure to use the largest muscles in the area. The larger the muscle or muscle group, the less stress will be placed on smaller muscles and the joint itself.
- During activities, a variety of postures and positions should be able to be assumed. Don’t stay in one position (like leaning forward) for extended periods. Your muscles will fatigue and the joints will put under undue stress.
- While performing a task, keep the joints that are being used in either their neutral position or halfway into their range of motion. This keeps them from going beyond their normal range of motion causing injury.
Chiropractic care for joint injuries
Chiropractors deal mainly with preventing repetitive stress injuries. Joints can become “stuck”, or misaligned, and in turn, do not function properly. They are not able to go through their full range of motion. Remember how important it is for a joint to go through its full range of motion every day for it to be nourished? Chiropractors manipulate (or adjust) joints so that they are able to function properly. Yes, chiropractors deal mainly with spinal joints, but we also can adjust shoulders, knees, hips, wrists, ankles, and feet. So the next time you’re feeling stuck, in pain, or just feel like you’re not moving well, let a chiropractor take a look.