Your joints are crucial to the proper function and coordination of your entire body. They serve as the connection points between your bones cushioning and absorbing shock to keep your body moving smoothly.
When you start to experience joint issues that affect your mobility it can drastically decrease your ability to function throughout the day. Gaining a basic understanding of the anatomy, function, and treatment of joints can improve your chances of recognizing and dealing with joint issues.
Anatomy of Your Synovial Joints
Your body contains several different types of synovial joints which contain a protective material, articular cartilage, that coats the bone surfaces so that they can move smoothly without rubbing or grinding. The different types of joints include:
Ball and socket – This is a joint that can move freely and rotate on an axis such as your hip or shoulder joints.
Saddle – This joint allows for extension, flexion, as well as other movements without rotation such as the joint in your thumb between your trapezium and metacarpal.
Condyloid – This joint allows for flexion, extension, as well as circular motions such as the joint in your wrist between your carpal bones and the radius.
Pivot – This joint allows for rotation such as at the top of your spine, where the axis and atlas form a pivot joint that provides the ability for your head to rotate.
Hinge – These joints move on only a single axis, allowing for extension and flexion such as your fingers and elbows.
Gliding – These joints move over one another on a single plane such as your intervertebral joints.
Synovial joints are often reinforced and supported by encompassing ligaments. Your joints are layered to structurally keeps your bones together and seal in essential fluids for the lubrication and health of the joints. Your joint capsule has both an inner layer, or synovial membrane, and an outer layer, or articular capsule.
Recognizing Joint Issues
Recognizing issues that are affecting your joints can drastically improve your ability to identify the source of the problem and take action in order to prevent potential injury or illness or reverse adverse effects. Common indicators of issues with your joints are pains, inflammation, loss of range of motion and flexibility, and swelling.
Arthritis can drastically affect your joints. This term is the informal way to refer to joint pain and/or disease. It is estimated to affect approximately forty-two million Americans. There are in excess of one hundred different types of arthritis. There are several categories which can better define the types of arthritis which include:
Metabolic – This type of arthritis is categorized by the high levels of uric acid which the body can’t process quickly enough to rid itself of surplus. When uric acid builds up, it can produce needle-like crystals in your joints. These can cause sudden and severe spikes of joint pain, which is also referred to as a gout attack.
Infectious – This type of arthritis is categorized by the introduction of a virus, bacterium, or fungus that enters your joint and elicits inflammation.
Inflammatory – This type of arthritis is categorized by the body mistakenly assaulting your joints with uncontrolled inflammation. This can eventually cause deterioration of your joints as well as potentially damage your eyes, internal organs, and possibly other body parts.
Degenerative – This type of arthritis is categorized by the wearing away of the articular cartilage which cushions the surface of bones at the joint. It can allow bone on bone contact which can cause stiffness, swelling, and pain. This can also result in a loss of joint strength as well as chronic pain.
Joint issues may also be caused by injury, which can take a considerable amount of time to heal, especially if there is damage caused to the articular cartilage. Injuries which occur inside or near a joint can significantly decrease your mobility and create an imbalance in your musculoskeletal system. When this happens, it raises your risk for additional injury as a result of your body having to overcompensate for the imbalance.
Treating Joint Issues
Orthotic aids such as braces and compression sleeves are incredibly useful for supplementing necessary support and stabilization that allows your joints to function properly. In the event of an injury or illness that affects a joint, they can also provide immobilization which allows for your body to begin the healing process. For instance, when you have an injured shoulder, you may consider using a sling for immobilizing your shoulder joint to avoid any additional damage. This can also help to provide support for broken bones, strains, sprains, and dislocations.
The best prevention for most joint issues is regular exercise. This can assist with maintaining proper fluid exchange that provides the necessary lubrication and nutrients to your joints. It can also improve cardiovascular and immune system performance, as well as strengthen the tissues that provide the necessary support and stability to your joints.