How do my joints work?

Actively middle aged couple hiking outdoors

Walking, running, jumping, or just standing up are things we do hundreds of times a day.  However, we’re only able to do all this because of healthy joints that support our weight. They let us stretch, bend, and flex with ease. Joints are the unsung heroes of the body that let us move seamlessly from one activity to the next.

We have hundreds of joints in the body and each of them plays a unique role in our day to day movements. Joint health is a big deal. Here are a few interesting things about how joints work, how they function, and what we can do to keep them healthy.

Joints are surprisingly complex

Each joint is a connection between two bones, a joint cavity, and a joint capsule. The cavity and capsule help protect the joint itself but sitting between the two bones is cartilage. Cartilage is like a cushion that provides a smooth surface to stop the bones from touching. It acts a bit like a shock absorber. So when cartilage gets worn or damaged, the bones rub against one another. This can lead to conditions like arthritis.

A solution called synovial fluid surrounds the joints. This is a fancy term for a fluid that helps reduce friction in the joint. All these parts—the cavity, capsule, cartilage, and fluid—have to work in harmony for the joint to function. Unsurprisingly, if just one these pieces become damaged, weakened or infected, your joint’s entire function becomes compromised.

Keeping the joint together: ligaments and tendons

Bones on their own are useless without the ability to let us move and rotate. This is where ligaments and tendons come into the picture. Bones attach to one another by strong bands called ligaments and muscles attach to the bones by tendons. Both ligaments and tendons are made of tissue that is incredibly strong. It is strong enough to hold the joint in place but flexible enough not to tear under normal movement. When you think of athletic injuries, it’s usually the ligaments and tendons that get injured. It’s usually these areas that take months to heal, which shows just how important they are.

Tips to keep your joints healthy

 Maintain a healthy weight. Staying at a healthy weight is important for many reasons. One of these is carrying extra weight takes a physical toll on the body over a long period of time. Weight-bearing joints such as your knees, hips, and back have to support some (if not all) of your body weight. Excess weight makes their job that much harder.

Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet. When it comes to bone health, vitamin D and calcium are the key pillars. Calcium is used to build healthy bones while vitamin D helps your body absorb both calcium and phosphorus. If your diet is deficient in either of these vitamins, then think about using supplements to help meet your daily required intake.

Add some weight-training into your gym routine. Muscles and joints are like yin and yang. You can’t have one without the other. Strong muscles support your joints and strong joints help support your muscles. Consider adding some weight-training into your gym routine. It can help build muscle and keep the surrounding ligaments strong.

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