Joints are what makes all movement possible from walking to dancing to just getting out of bed. Although there is no definitive answer on exactly how many joints are in the human body, it’s safe to say, there’s a lot. As an adult, most of you have 206 bones in your body with about 250-350 joints.
What is a joint? Simply stated, a joint is where two bones meet regardless of whether it is movable. There are different types of joints, bony joints, fibrous joints, cartilaginous joints, and synovial joints. This blog post will be about synovial joints , more importantly, the synovial fluid within the joint– the fluid that makes joint movement by and large, friction-free.
In general, a synovial joint is two bones meeting, encased in a fibrous capsule, separated by a film of synovial fluid. This fluid, which is stored in the joint cavity helps bones move freely within the joint capsule. Examples of synovial joints are the jaw, elbow, hip, fingers, and knee joints.
Synovial joints are complex, depending on their function they may have other characteristics such as cartilage pads, articular discs, and bursa sacs. For example, in the knee joint there are menisci, cartilage pads that “help absorb shock and pressure, guide the moving bones across each other, reduce the chance of dislocation, and distribute force across the entire joint instead of just a few points of contact.” (Anatomy & Physiology, Saladin) Nonetheless, all synovial joints have synovial fluid.
What is synovial fluid? “Synovial fluid is a lubricant rich in albumin and hyaluronic acid. It nourishes the joint cartilages and removes their wastes, and it contains phagocytes that clean up tissue debris resulting from cartilage wear and tear.” (Anatomy & Physiology, Saladin) In effect, synovial fluid is like the WD40 of your body– it keeps you lubricated so you can move with ease.
How can we support the efforts of synovial joints and the synovial fluid so that it can continue to do its job of helping us be mobile and injury protected? Exercise. More importantly, there is a formula, a protocol of sorts to promote the health of synovial joints and synovial fluid– here it is:
1. Do warm-up before exercise. Before vigorous activity warm-up because synovial fluid becomes thinner and more easily absorbed by the articular cartilage thus helping to protect the joint from undue wear and tear.
2. Do med-high repetition of certain exercises such as squats and push-ups because “repetitive compression during exercise is important to its nutrition and waste removal.” Without exercise joints will deteriorate from lack of nutrition, oxygenation, and waste removal. (Anatomy & Physiology, Saladin)
3. Do weight-bearing exercises such as walking or lunging because this builds bone mass and strengths the muscles around the joint.
4. Do add instability challenges to your exercises such as single leg touch-down to strengthen the stabilizing muscles surrounding the joint.
5. Do SMR on muscles around joints to relieve tension in or around the joint.
6. Do stretch and move often and in different directions to maintain joint flexibility and mobility.
Sing it with me, “you’ve got to move-it movie-it!” =)
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