Tag Archives: A Primer on Joint Structure and Function

A Primer on Joint Structure and Function

JointStructureFunctionJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

Of the approximately 300 joints in the human body, most are synovial joints that facilitate movement. Joint components stabilize the joint, allow bones to move freely and protect the joint from the rigors of constant use. A synovial membrane encapsulates the joint surfaces and synovial fluid contained therein lubricates, protects and nourishes cartilage and bones within the joint capsule. Articular cartilage covers and cushions the end of bones where they meet, allowing the bones to glide over one another as the joints bend and straighten, and acts as a shock absorber, cushioning bones against impact during movement. Soft tissue structures, such as tendons and ligaments, provide structure and facilitate movement. Bursae, small sacs of synovial fluid, provide additional cushioning and lubrication.

Synovial joints are highly susceptible to degenerative or osteoarthritis (OA). A common chronic joint condition in those aged 65 and older, OA can begin to develop decades earlier. Occurring most often in knee, hip, neck, lower back and finger joints, OA causes surface cartilage to break down and wear away, resulting in bone on bone contact and joint stiffness, inflammation, pain, swelling and reduced movement. While healthy cartilage can tolerate intensive and repetitive physical stress, unfortunately it cannot self-heal or repair even the most minor injury. This limited spontaneous repair of cartilage lesions leads to a progressive loss in joint function and the continuing destabilization of the tissue matrix.

Muscle soreness after exercise that abates in a day or so may be normal, but joint pain after exercise may be cause for concern. Joint stiffness or diminished range of motion upon rising, as well as a dull ache deep within the joint, are all early signs that arthritis is already developing even when the symptoms abate for the balance of the day. Although during our 30’s and 40’s we may not pay much attention to joint health, it’s best to take preventive measures to protect joints before they begin to cause continuous discomfort. The best way to avoid joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis is to eat a healthy diet, maintain a normal weight, and participate in a routine exercise program.

Common risk factors for OA include aging, obesity, prior joint injury, joint overuse, weak musculature and genetics. Certain genetic traits can negatively affect the body’s collagen production, the protein that makes up cartilage. As well, when bones don’t fit together properly cartilage can wear away sooner than it normally might. Being overweight puts additional pressure on hip and knee joints and can cause cartilage to break down. In addition, adipose tissue produces inflammatory chemicals that can affect or damage joints. Repetitive movements or injuries that damage joints, tendons and ligaments can speed cartilage breakdown. Weakness of muscles supporting the joint can also lead to altered movement and eventual cartilage breakdown. Ultimately, previously smooth cartilage becomes rough and pitted, causing friction and pain with movement.

Preventative measures to preserve joint health

  • Reach and maintain optimal weight. Carrying excess body weight puts additional and unnecessary stress on weight bearing joints. Studies show that losing even a small amount of weight results in reduction in loading forces on the knee with every step taken.
  • Low impact exercises such as walking, swimming and cycling provide good exercise while minimizing stress on joints. Movement and range of motion exercises help ease joint stiffness, reduce joint pain and help maintain mobility and joint flexibility.
  • Weight training to strengthen muscles surrounding joints provides adequate joint support and stability. Muscle mass absorbs impact stress, helping to prevent joint damage and cartilage erosion.
  • Adding high nutrient colorful foods to the diet provides disease-fighting antioxidants and an abundance of inflammation-reducing phytochemicals.
  • Be sure to stay well hydrated. Drinking sufficient water keeps the entire body and joint cartilage lubricated and healthy.

Supplements for joint health

  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish and supplements may help reduce joint pain, inflammation and stiffness.
  • Boswellia contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds and other biochemicals that may inhibit the breakdown of cartilage, collagen and connective tissue.
  • MSM may help to reduce muscle soreness, as well as pain and inflammation associated with OA.
  • Glucosamine may help to slow the deterioration of joint cartilage and reduce associated pain.
  • Chondroitin sulfate has been shown to significantly decrease pain and inflammation, as well as improve movement and function in those with hand OA.
  • Levels of hyaluronic acid, a natural lubricating substance found in high concentrations in synovial joints, skin and eyes, decrease with aging. Studies have found that supplementing with hyaluronic acid over a period of time may significantly improve joint function and reduce pain and inflammation in those with knee osteoarthritis.

Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality supplements in support of healthy joints:

Glucosamine...Glucosamine Chondroitin with Hyaluronic Acid by Metabolic Maintenance®: This maximum potency formula combines three synergistic compounds in support of cartilage resiliency and joint health maintenance. Gluten and excipient free. Contains shellfish.

 

MarMarine Fish Oiline Fish Oil by Klaire Labs™: This high strength concentrated fish oil provides molecularly distilled EPA and DHA essential fatty acids in support of a healthy inflammatory response, immune function, and lipoprotein metabolism. Preserved with vitamin E tocopherols. Independently tested for heavy metals, pesticides and contaminants. Unflavored, odorless with no fishy aftertaste. Gluten and cholesterol free.

 

BoswelliaBoswellia by Pure Encapsulations®: This hypoallergenic formula provides the active constituents of boswellia in support of healthy joints and connective tissue, proper gastrointestinal function and cellular and musculoskeletal health. Gluten free, Non-GMO formulation.

 

Glucosamine Plus™Glucosamine Plus™ by Douglas Laboratories: This synergistic formulation provides glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate in highly absorbable forms in support of the synthesis and maintenance of connective tissues. Contains shellfish.

 

Glucosamine...Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM by Doctor’s Best®: This formula provides science-based nutritional support for healthy joints and connective tissues, as well as joint lubrication, movement and flexibility. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO formulation. Contains shellfish.

If you are pregnant, lactating, taking medications or have a medical condition, please consult your healthcare provider before taking supplements.

References:
What is Osteoarthritis? https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/osteoarthritis/what-is-osteoarthritis.php
What Is a Synovial Joint? https://www.arthritis-health.com/types/joint-anatomy/what-synovial-joint
Synovial Joint. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/synovial-joint
Degenerative Arthritis. https://www.arthritis-health.com/types/general/degenerative-arthritis
Hyaluronan and synovial joint: function, distribution and healing.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3967437/