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Everything you need to know about your joints

A joint is the point where two or more bones or cartilages come together. To understand joint health options, it’s important to know more about how joints function. Here are some of the basics.

Your joints perform many important jobs. They are also essential for your skeleton to bear weight and remain stable. Even your rib cage has joints!

Some joints, such as your knees, facilitate movement. Flexible joints enable you to wiggle your hips, bend your knees, grasp a fork and swing a golf club. When the muscles around one of these joints move, it contracts. Simple joints are those with just two articulating surfaces. Compound joints have more than two articulating surfaces.

The insides of your most mobile type of joints are lined with cartilage, and lubricated with synovial fluid to keep the interior surface slippery. These joints also have a rich nerve supply, so that they are responsive to the slightest muscle movements. In addition to muscles, your joints depend on ligaments and in some cases bones help to keep them in place and to stop them from moving involuntarily.

Common causes of joint pain  

Unfortunately, painful joints happen to us, at one time or another. Five of the more typical causes are:

  • Sprains: When your ligament tears, it hurts! Blood and other fluids rush to the injury, causing pain and often swelling.
  • Dislocation: Commonly caused by trauma, dislocation is when one joint surface becomes displaced and loses contact with the other. Not only are you in pain. You can also lose all or some of the joint function.
  • Weather: Is there a cold front coming? The synovial fluid in your joints may get thicker when the temperature drops, causing stiffness. Moving around promotes joint lubrication, which is why the stiffness generally eases as the day progresses.
  • Arthritis: This is joint inflammation that can lead to swelling, as well as painful, restricted movement. Common arthritis types are rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
  • Osteoarthritis: In this age-related disease, pain is caused when the cartilage cushioning your joints deteriorates.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This is an autoimmune disorder (where the immune system attacks the body’s tissues, as in rheumatoid arthritis). It leads to painful swelling, and can eventually cause joint deformity and bone erosion.

Take good care of your joints, muscles, bones and ligaments. Exercise. Maintain a healthy weight. And take swift action to support your joint health whenever pain and inflammation begin to impact your mobility.

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