A human body’s flexibility and mobility is dependent upon maintaining healthy joints. One of the consequences of over-activity, excess weight, or the general wear and tear of age is stiff or achy joints, which can make even simple activities like walking, bending over, or reaching for a cup on a shelf uncomfortable or painful.
The spot where two bones meet is called a joint. Bones are held together at the joints by ligaments, which act like very strong rubber bands. Some joints, like the hips, elbow, knee, and shoulder move freely while the spine has limited movement. The most flexible joints are called hinge joints, such as elbows, knees, and fingers, which bend in a certain direction, much like the hinge on a door. Another type of joint is called the ball and socket, which provides 360o movement, such as in the hips and shoulders. Ball and socket joints work by having the round end of one bone fitting into a cup-like area of another bone. To keep the joints lubricated and moving freely, the body produces synovial fluid, which acts as a kind of oil.
Typically, cartilage protects the joint, allowing smooth movement. Cartilage also acts as a shock absorber whenever pressure, or weight, is placed on the joint. Without a proper amount of cartilage, the bones can rub against one another resulting in stiffness or pain. Extremity joint conditions can range in severity from mild discomfort to incapacitation, and can afflict shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. The most common joint conditions include injuries to the rotator cuff, stiff shoulder, tennis elbow, osteoarthritis, ankle sprains, and sporting injuries.
Most people who experience tennis elbow have never picked up a racket. While playing tennis could cause inflammation of the elbow joint, it is most usually caused by any activity that requires repetitive arm movement. One of the newest causes is sitting for hours at the computer using a mouse. Carpal tunnel syndrome is identified by neuropathy in the hand and fingers. Again, the syndrome is caused by repetitive movement or strain on the wrist. Hips are particularly susceptible to osteoarthritis—pain and stiffness cause by worn points. Sports and accidents are another common cause of joint issues such as ankle sprains, rotator cuff tears, and knee sprains.
To help maintain healthy joints it’s important to exercise regularly, maintain a proper weight, do weight bearing exercise, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (especially those that contain antioxidants), and schedule regular check-ups with your chiropractic specialist.