Core Essential number 2 – Move your joints
Your Joints are designed to move, and depriving them of movement deprives them of what they need to be healthy. Hyaline cartilage is the smooth slippery surface that lines your joints, and for the purpose of this article, think of it as being a little like a sponge. The nutrients for your cartilage are dissolved in the fluid that lubricates the joint; when you move the joint you put pressure on the cartilage and squeeze out the fluid. Keep moving the joint, you take the pressure off, and the cartilage reabsorbs fluid and gets its nutrients.
Problems with your joints occur under two different conditions. The first is when there is not enough load or movement, particularly at the extremes of our joints range. This is the number one preventable cause of arthritis of the joints. The second is when the joint is placed under too much load, such as occurs with a joint sprain, trauma, or surgery.
Whether dealing with the routine stretching exercises performed by the average person, or with therapeutic stretching in the post-injury rehabilitation, connective tissue is the most important physical target of range of motion exercises. The main source of resistance at the normal extremes of joint motion are ligaments, joint capsules, and tendons, all of which are made of connective tissues.
Assuming your joints are relatively healthy and we want to prevent the first type of problem, then a slow gentle stretching routine is best way to do this. Get in the habit of moving all your joints through a full range of motion every day. This not only keeps your joints healthy, but any new stiffness or discomfort serves as an early warning signal to seek treatment before it becomes an injury. Find an activity such as yoga or Tai Chi that encourages you to move your body in all directions in a slow and controlled fashion. Activities such as these also have the added bonus of the social interaction they provide.
Keep in mind that the slow easy stretches that most of us do when we work out, do not increase the mobility of your soft tissues, they maintain what you already have.
Following trauma or surgery the connective tissues (scar, adhesions, or contractures) involved in the body’s reparative processes frequently interfere with normal joint function. In the early stages, the balancing act that you need to find is to move your tissues enough to maintain joint mobility, without interfering with the healing process.
When the injury has healed enough that you do not have to worry about re-injury, then you will want you to perform a stretch that will actually increase the mobility of your soft tissues, Except in the cases of problems such as adhesions, therapeutic mobilizations and stretches are mainly designed to produce what is called a plastic deformation because a permanent increase in range of motion is the goal.
When connective tissues are elongated, some mechanical weakening always occurs. The lower the intensity, and the slower the stretch, the less the weakening. So your stretches will be applied very gently, for an extended period of time (minutes not seconds). Soft tissues are also more pliable at an elevated temperature (104 degrees), which is why we warm up, or apply a heating pad, before applying the stretch.
Watch for other Core Essentials in future posts, so that you can truly live a healthful and active life.
To your pain-free health,