Joints are where the magic happens when it comes to human movement.

In fact, pretty much every physical movement you are capable of is made possible by the movement at a joint. Conversely, pain or restriction or pain in an extremity is a leading source of chronic pain and disability. (1)

Certainly, the health of your joints determines the health of your movements. If you lack a full range of motion at any part of a joint’s normal healthy range, then you lose a movement option. For example, if you have a knee that doesn’t bend past 90 degrees, then that is as far as you can squat down.

In addition, getting something off the floor or bending down to tie your shoe will be increasingly difficult without strong, agile knees that can bend a full 135 degrees.

Maintaining the health of all the joints in the body is a critical piece of physical wellness. In fact, knowing how the extremities work and what keeps them functioning well is a good first step.

Two Essential Ways to Care for Your Joints

Joints 101

Joints can best be described as “a moveable connection between two bones.” (2) Cartilage and fluid are both presents within the extremity to allow the bones to glide smoothly without friction.

There are several different types of articulations in the body. In fact, the type determines the range of motion available at that connection. Some connections like the shoulder joint have an extensive, circular range of motion, allowing you to reach side to side and overhead. Others like the knee are a hinge and bend in one direction.

In particular, each articulation has the potential for a different range of movement, and having access to the full range is necessary for a healthy joint.

How Joints Get Stiff and Ache

How Joints Get Stiff and Ache

Pain or stiffness in a limb can develop at any age and from a variety of causes.

The most common is arthritis. As we get older, the fluid in the joint space decreases and the cartilage that provides cushion may wear away. (3) Osteoarthritis can develop, leading to stiff and painful extremities.

Injuries, whether caused by an accident or repetitive overuse, are another leading cause of arm and leg pain. With proper care, the limb should heal and return to normal. However, healing from these injuries requires effort and dedication to doing the movements that will ensure a full recovery. When that is not achieved, pain in the extremities can become chronic.

Our movement habits play a huge role in our joints’ long-term health. When an arm or leg is not moved regularly through its complete range of motion, the cartilage between the bones will deteriorate. (4) Regular movement is essential to keep the bones, fluid, and cartilage healthy and pain-free.

Two Essential Ways to Care for Your Joints

Move, move and move some more. A sedentary articulation is a deteriorating joint. Getting regular exercise, taking walks, and doing arm and leg circles daily will prevent and address stiffness and pain. If your joint pain is caused by a specific factor such as arthritis or injury, be sure to follow the movement guidelines provided by your doctor or physical therapist. Do your exercises daily!

Preventing inflammation in the body by eating a balanced diet, avoiding too much sugar, and getting adequate sleep can protect and heal your limbs. Foods that provide omega-3 fatty acids such as fatty fish, walnuts, and flax are part of a healthy anti-inflammatory diet. (5)

Your Joints Are Your Future Movement

Caring for your joints is caring for your body’s ability to move with freedom and ease. Preventing deterioration and restriction in the joint creates a foundation on which all future movements will depend. And, caring for joints that experience pain or stiffness will keep you moving for life.

Whether it’s a hip or a big toe, the health of each part of the body is critical to all of it.