Machines break down over time because movement and friction degrade the surfaces of the parts. The same is true for your joints. However, the analogy falls short when it comes to solving the problem of wear and tear. Your automatic garage door may last longer if you push the button less frequently, but your joints thrive on movement to keep them lubricated and healthy.
While they’ll eventually succumb to the laws of physics and gradually deteriorate, your joints have a major advantage over your garage door — muscles.
Here, Dr. Neil Ghodadra discusses the symbiotic connection between your muscles and your joints, and explains how more movement, not less, is the key to health and longevity.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis, and the main driver behind it is wear and tear. Over time, the protective cartilage thins out and disappears until your bones rub against one another painfully. In addition to inflammation and stiffness, your joints may develop bone spurs, which are hard protrusions that hinder movement, irritate nearby nerves, and exacerbate the problem.
It may seem logical that reducing usage would preserve your joints and prevent OA, but the opposite is true. Movement promotes lubrication and flexibility, while a sedentary lifestyle leads to a long list of health problems, including achy joints.
The muscle-movement-joint connection
Strong muscles go hand in hand with healthy joints. When your muscles function properly, they absorb shock around your joints and protect them from the effects of daily usage. Regular exercise, especially weight-bearing activities, develops muscle tissue and allows your joints to focus on what they do best — movement.
How weak muscles impact your joints
Lack of exercise leads to muscle atrophy and balance problems. Joints carry the burden of their own function plus your muscles’ job. This accelerates the onset of OA and triggers a cycle of pain, stiffness, inactivity, and joint deterioration.
How strong muscles impact your joints
Strong muscles act like bodyguards for your joints, so we encourage all our patients to maintain a good exercise routine. However, if you’re an athlete, certain activities may have an indirect negative effect on your joints.
While we would never discourage athletic activity, some contact sports, such as football and rugby, may put you at risk for developing post-traumatic OA. But as the former team physician for the Chicago Bulls (NBA), the Chicago White Sox (MLB), and multiple semi-professional, university, and high school football, hockey, and gymnastics teams, Dr. Ghodadra is definitely pro-sports.
Regular and vigorous exercises are essential components of a healthy lifestyle as well as strong muscles and joints. Talk to Dr. Ghodadra about the best type of activities for your age, health, and skill level.
What to do about painful joints
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself battling joint pain at some point in your life. Whether the cause is OA, a sprain, strain, fracture, or infection, Dr. Ghodadra can help.
After performing a comprehensive examination and talking to you in depth about your symptoms, health history, lifestyle, and activities, he develops a personalized treatment plan that addresses the underlying cause or causes of your joint pain. This may include modified or increased activity, medication, bracing, and/or regenerative medicine.
Joint pain can bring your activity level to a screeching halt, but Dr. Ghodadra can get you moving again. Call us at either our Los Angeles or Thousand Oaks office to set up a consultation with NEIL GHODADRA, M.D., and get your muscles and joints back in sync.