What is a joint? A joint is simply the connection between two bones. Most of them are movable joints. There are different kinds of joints. On this post, I will focus on one kind: the synovial joint. Your knees, shoulders, fingers, elbows and hips are some examples of synovial joints. Also, the facet joints that guide movement between the vertebrae on your spine are also synovial.
In a synovial joint, the contact surface area of the two bones that connect is covered with hyaline cartilage. The cartilage surface is very smooth to reduce friction just like the pistons in an engine block. Surface smoothness is necessary to produce fluid movement of our joints. Otherwise, they would move like cogwheels making us look like robots when conducting our everyday activities. Also, it is very important to remember that cartilage acts as a cushion between bones. It gets compressed when we load them and quickly return to their original shape when we unload them. Correct joint alignment is necessary to avoid stressing the cartilage between the bone incorrectly causing early deterioration.
Like the pistons in the engine block, the cartilage-lined surface of two bones need lubrication. Our bodies produce an amazing one called synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is the oil that lowers friction between two cartilagenous surfaces to nearly zero when we move our joints. Also, synovial fluid brings nutrients to the cartilage in our joints. Nutrients in synovial fluid get absorbed by cartilage the way sponges absorb liquid. You press on a sponge, and it sucks up liquid. So to nourish your cartilage you need to load and unload the cartilage correctly to suck up nutrients and repair units from the synovial fluid such as glucosamine or hyaluronic acid.
The ends of the bones that make up the articulation are surrounded by strands of ligament like tissue: the joint capsule. Not only does the joint capsule keeps the two bones together but it also creates a sac for the synovial fluid so that it does not escape the articulation. It is also important because the synovial membrane, that secretes the synovial fluid, lines the interior of the sac.
On top of this sac, you have ligaments that reinforce the joint capsule. The ligaments and surrounding a joint are similar in nature to the joint capsule. They limit and guide the movement of the joint and give it stability. They are composed by connective tissue fibers that can “wrinkle” and cause the joint to tighten, become less movable or create aberrant movement of the joint if we are sedentary or if we do not use the joint for extended periods of time (as when we are sidelined by injury). That’s one of the reasons why stretching is essential to maintain the health of your joints.
On top of the ligaments, you usually encounter muscle tendons and muscles that provide a second layer of protection to the joints. Muscles and tendon are more elastic than the ligament and the joint capsule. They move bones. By strengthening them through correct physical activity, you ensure muscles share some or most of that stress on the ligamentous components of the joints. However, if you don’t stretch your muscles, they will compress and limit movement of your joints making them go from friends to enemy. This is as dangerous as an injury because the internal structure of your joints depend on fluid movement to stay healthy.
So, how does chiropractic help your joints? Chiropractic is the first line of defense to extend the longevity of healthy joints. It ensures their correct movement. Chiropractic adjustments (fast, shallow thrusts on the joints of your spine or extremities) promote synovial fluid secretion and correct loading for healthy cartilages. They promote healing after injury caused by accidents, bad posture and repetitive movements since they remove, among other things, wrinkles (collagen cross links) on ligaments, muscle tightness, spasms, trigger points and contractures that might limit the movement of your joints after injury. Because of all this, they guard against degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis, facet syndrome and lateral canal stenosis. By making your joints more resistant to stress, chiropractic magnifies the effectiveness stretching, strengthening exercises and your performance in sports.
Chiropractic helps you recover more rapidly if you are injured. More importantly, though, it prevents injury and maintains the health of your joints so that you can enjoy life to its fullest.