How To Keep Joints Strong
Everyday we do a combination of so many motions. We climb stairs, run kids to bus stop. We load and unload the dishwasher and the washing machine. Then we vacuum the house, clean the tub, push a loaded down grocery cart and then carry all these items in and out of the car and put away bags of groceries. We hang clothes, lug football bags, and mop floors and a myriad of a million other things. No wonder we are sore, tired and worn out. We just did a whole set of dynamic motions.
Every joint in your body has a normal amount of motion to be well. The joint should move through this motion at lease 10 times everyday to keep its flexibility. Did you know that your shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint and it is able to move 180 degrees overhead? Did you know that same ball and socket joint in your hip could never move that far?
At the most your hip joint can move about 140 degrees when you pull your knee to your chest. Joints like to move and they were made to move. They get stiff and achy when we don’t move them. Our joints have a synovial lining in them and this lining makes synovial fluid and when we move the joints it makes more synovial fluid. The synovial fluid is a slippery, slick fluid and the joints glide and slide, like a skater on ice, when they are well lubricated. That is why some of us feel stiff in the morning as we try to get out of bed when we get older. The joints have been stagnant all night and the synovial fluid is static. So the best thing you can do it stretch and do range of motion exercises to a stiff joint. It may seem painful at first but it really it will make you feel better to get the joint moving.
Often after surgery on a joint, the best thing to do is get the joint moving. Our rotator cuff patients aren’t allowed to move their own joints after surgery so we seen them in physical therapy to move their joints for them.
A physical therapist is a specialist in moving joints. They know the exact biomechanics of how each joint works. They know if the joint should roll, glide, slide, spin or combination of all of the above. They know how much range of motion a particular joint should have and how all the muscles that surround that joint should work. They are specifically trained to see if some muscles are working too hard and other muscles are not working at all. They can tell if one set of muscles is too tight and another is too loose. They test the joints to see if the capsule is too tight that surrounds the joint because it could be why the motion of the joint is restricted. A physical therapist uses their hands to test the joint because they can feel whether the motion is occurring the way it should be.
The motions of our joints happen in three planes of movement. The three planes are the sagittal plane, the frontal plane and the transverse plane. When you train whether it is with your stretching exercises or your aerobic or strength training, you need to train in all the planes of motion. No longer can you stretch your hamstring in just the sagittal plane. It does not work only in the sagittal plane. It plays a key role in the frontal and the transverse planes as well, so you will need to stretch it in this way also to prevent injury to it. How do you do this? Well one way is as you have your leg up on the chair, you can roll your foot to the inside and the outside. You can twist your hips slowly to the right and the left, and then you can gently swing your hips up and down while the hamstring is still on stretch. Now you will have gotten all the planes of motion and these motions are what you will need for that muscle and its corresponding joints.
So remember to stretch and strengthen in all three planes. The more sophisticated the motion the more planes it usually occurs in. Can you always start training in with all these motions? Often you can’t till you have mastered the single plane of motion first. Then you would add on to the next plane of motion. The next easiest plane is the frontal plane. Lastly, you add in the transverse plane of motion. It is the most complex of motions and requires a symphony of muscles firing to be efficient.
Examples of these planes and an exercise are listed below.
Sagittal plane- forward lunges happen in this plane of motion.
Frontal plane- the side lunge happens in this plane of motion.
Transverse plane-all the twisting motions happen in this plane of motion. You would lunge forward and then twist with a weighted ball to the right and the left. Then you could lunge to the side and twist your trunk again to the right and the left with a weighted ball.
Sheree DiBiase, PT is the owner or Lake City Physical Therapy and she and her staff can be reached in CDA at (208) 667-1988, and in our Spokane Valley office at (509) 891-2623. We can teach you how to stretch and strengthen in all planes of motion so you can be injury free.