A joint is the area where two or more bones meet. Muscles, bones, joints and their surrounding structures, together with the nervous system, provide the primary mechanics of movement. Joints are classified as structural or functional.
- The structural category relates to the way bones connect to each other. These connections include cartilage, collagen rich connective tissue or a fluid filled capsule supported by ligaments.
- The functional joint classification is determined by the level of movement between articulating bones. The joints of the knee, shoulder, hip and elbow are examples of functional joints that allow free movement.
- The joints of the skull and vertebra which have little or no mobility are considered structural joints.
- In addition, joints are classified according to the number of axes of movement they allow, the degree of freedom they allow, and the number and shape of the articular surfaces.
- Lastly, joints are subdivided into simple and compound categories depending upon the number of bones involved, and into complex and combination joints.
- Simple Joint – This type of joint has 2 articulation surfaces. Examples include the shoulder and hip joints.
- Compound Joint – This type of joint has 3 or more articulation surfaces such as a wrist joint.
- Complex Joint – This type of joint has 2 or more articulation surfaces plus an articular disc or meniscus such as the knee joint and lower jaw joint.
Arthritis, the leading cause of disability in people over the age of 55, affects 50 million American adults. Arthritis is a general term for joint inflammation. Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the condition where surface cartilage in the joints degrades and wears away. With this loss of protective tissue, bone can rub against bone resulting in pain, inflammation, stiffness and loss of mobility. Decreased movement can lead to muscle atrophy and lax ligaments. Osteoarthritis can be a result of mechanical stress, trauma to a joint, a joint infection or simply a result of aging. Exercise, lifestyle changes, pain management and supplements to reduce inflammation are normal treatments.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that principally attacks flexible joints on both sides of the body. This results in chronic inflammation and pain, and substantial loss of mobility and function. Rheumatoid arthritis often leads to cartilage destruction and fusion within the joint. Treatment, aimed at controlling inflammation and progression of the disease, often involves medication, physical therapy and exercise.
Regular physical activity is vital to joint health and mobility. The best way to care for your joints is to keep your muscles, ligaments and bones strong and stable. To maintain healthy joints:
- Move. Joints need movement to stay flexible and strong. Sitting in a chair all day raises your risk of joint pain and stiffness. In addition to getting regular exercise, move around, stand up and change positions often.
- Protect your joints. Wear protective gear when participating in high risk activities and sports such as rollerblading or skateboarding. Children are particularly susceptible to sports injuries as their bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments are still growing.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight places undue strain on weight bearing joints such as hips, knees and back. Added weight increases the risk of cartilage breakdown. A one pound weight loss equates to 4 pounds of pressure being lifted off your knees.
- Take a daily stretch. Warm up before exercise, but do your stretching afterwards when muscles, ligaments and tendons that support joints are warm and loose.
- Participate in low impact exercise. Walking, swimming and cycling are excellent choices for joint health. The jarring and pounding of high impact exercise can increase injury risk and have adverse effects on cartilage.
- Strengthen muscles around joints. Stronger thigh muscles takes stress away from knee joints. Weak muscles increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
- Work towards full range of motion. Moving joints to the full and normal extent helps to maintain flexibility and reduce stiffness.
- Strengthen your core muscles. Strong abdominal and back muscles support balance which helps to protect your joints from injuries.
- Know your limits. If you experience pain lasting longer than 48 hours after exercise, you have overstressed your joints. Normal aches and pains are to be expected with muscle building, but it is not beneficial or necessary to work through pain to receive the benefits of exercise.
- Practice good posture. Standing and sitting up straight protects joints from head to toe. Walking, swimming and dancing are good exercises to improve posture. Bend your knees when lifting heavier items to protect your back from injury.
- Seek treatment for joint injuries. Injury and trauma can contribute to cartilage breakdown and osteoarthritis. Medical treatment and advice can help to prevent further damage.
- Ice to relieve swelling and pain. Icing for 15 – 20 minutes at a time for the first 24 – 48 hours after injury can help relieve joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Do not ice for longer than 20 minutes at one time as tissue damage may occur.
- A healthy diet nourishes joints. Be sure to include Omega 3 fatty acids which promote healthy joints, and reduce joint pain and swelling.
- Supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin. These natural chemical compounds are found in healthy joints and may provide relief for moderate to severe joint pain.
- Complement with calcium and vitamin D. Strong bones give you better balance which can help prevent falls that could potentially damage hip and knee joints.
The better your joints function, the better you feel. Strong, healthy, pain free joints enable you to perform daily activities easily. Keep moving and practice joint protection strategies to prevent injuries and maintain healthy and functional joint longevity.
Try these supplements for joint health:
AR – Encap (SF774) by Thorne Research provides comprehensive joint support. This formula supplies the recommended daily dose of glucosamine in combination with joint supporting nutrients and botanicals.
Joint Ease by Vital Nutrients provides herbal support for joint discomfort. This combination of powerful antioxidants and botanicals nourishes the cartilage and joints and supports healthy cartilage and joint strength.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin with MSM by Pure Encapsulations offers highly purified constituents for healthy cartilage formation and joint movement ease. Sulfur containing methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is included in this glucosamine and chondroitin combination to provide an enhanced spectrum of nutrients for optimal cartilage matrix composition, connective tissue strength, and joint comfort.
Joint Ease by Vinco is designed for healthy joint function and maintenance. This all natural formula with glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM helps to alleviate the symptoms of joint aches, pains and inflammation.
ProOmega Lemon 1000mg by Nordic Naturals for joint flexibility, mobility and support of the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response. Inflammation can produce many negative health effects including chronic pain and the breakdown of cartilage and tissue. EPA and DHA, the omega–3 essential fatty acids in fish oil, support key anti-inflammatory pathways that help alleviate back and joint pain.