Why Exercise Is Good for Your Joints
Regular exercise offers a wide range of benefits to all aspects of the body from physical to mental well-being. It helps to build strength and flexibility making us fitter and healthier, and it reduces the risk of a number of diseases and boosts the body’s natural immunity. It is our joints that allow us to move around, providing us with vital flexibility and support and without our joints, the human body would be rigid. They are anchored in place by a network of muscles and ligaments to keep them stable and to protect them from injuries.
What Are Joints Made From?
A joint is where two bones in the body come together and there are several different types of joints in the body, most of which are mobile. The joint connects the bones together within a capsule made of soft tissue, allowing movement and preventing the bones from grinding against one another. Aside from the bones, other tissues within the joint include:
- Cartilage – this covers the surface of the bone within the joint, helping to reduce friction
- Synovial membrane – a thin layer of tissue that covers and seals the joint and secretes synovial fluid. This clear, sticky fluid is infused with nutrients, it serves to lubricate, nourish and protect the joint. The synovial membrane is connected to the blood supply, not the cartilage.
- Tendons –although technically outside the joint, these are a strong type of tissue that connects the bones to the muscles, helping to control the movement of the joint.
- Ligaments – again these are formed of tough, elastic bands of connective tissue, and the ligaments connect bone to bone helping to stabilise the joint.
- Bursae – fluid-filled sacs whose function is to cushion friction within the joint and they act as padding between the bones and other structures.
There are several different types of joints in the body:
- Ball and socket
- Gliding joints
- Hinge joints
- Pivot joints
- Saddle joints
- Condyloid joints
What Makes Joints Unhealthy?
Many health conditions can negatively impair the function of the joints; however, most joint-related problems are due to overuse, ageing and general wear and tear, or to direct trauma. Conditions commonly associated with painful joints include the following:
There are multiple different types of arthritis and it is one of the most common disorders affecting the joints. This degenerative condition typically occurs as a result of the natural ageing process, where cartilage and other soft tissue structures begin to break down, dry out and become less effective. Arthritis causes the cartilage surrounding the joints to wear away and without this protective padding, bone rubs on bone causing painful symptoms and a lack of movement in the joints.
Tendinopathy is a blanket term used to describe disorders of the tendon; tendinitis describes inflammation of the tendons. Whilst tendinitis can occur at any part of the tendons, it frequently occurs around the joints, in particular the shoulders, elbow, wrists, knees, and heels.
Bursitis describes inflammation of the bursa; this swelling can cause the whole of the joint to hurt. It is often caused by high impact activities which can put pressure on the joint.
Dislocation describes an extremely painful condition where the ends of the bones at the joint are forced out of their normal position, causing instability and immobility that affects the surrounding soft tissues. Dislocation is typically caused by trauma from a direct blow, fall, vehicle accident or other type of collision.
Fibromyalgia is a long-term pain disorder that causes widespread pain and aches across the body including in the joints, as well as extreme fatigue.
How Does Exercise Help Our Joints?
Exercise plays an essential role in keeping our joints healthy by helping to alleviate pain as well as stimulating the growth of cartilage.
Stimulate Blood Flow
Exercise helps to stimulate the blood flow – the more we move around, the greater the supply of blood there is to the synovial membrane and subsequently to the cartilage of the joints, helping to keep them strong and healthy.
Regular exercise helps to build muscle as well as keeping them toned and this stabilises the joints, reducing the risk of dislocation and keeping the joints anchored well in place. Weak muscles can increase the risk of injury to other soft tissue structures such as ligaments and tendons in and around the joint.
As we age, our bones begin to lose density and thin out. The role of exercise becomes increasingly important in maintaining bone strength and improving bone density. Some studies have suggested a link between arthritis and loss of bone density and osteoporosis.
Engaging in regular exercise helps lead to improved strength in the core muscles of the body, helping to correct and improve posture and the balance of the body as a whole.
Specific types of strengthening exercise can strengthen the joints themselves, helping to prevent any further injuries whilst reducing the risk of dislocation.
Our Physiotherapy Clinic
Physiotherapy is widely recognised as a successful technique for the management of joint pain. Our highly experienced team uses research-based methods that are proven to be effective and valid. Treatment plans vary, depending on the individual and the joint that is affected; however, they generally include targeted exercises, stretches, hands-on manipulation as well as discussing any factors which may be aggravating symptoms, such as routines, occupation, posture and so forth, working together to find ways to make improvements.
If you are suffering from joint pain, get in touch today to find out how the ProPhysiotherapy team can help.