The Impact of Exercise on Joints

Did you know there is an international day of sport for development and peace? Sport can cross country borders and reach out even when diplomatic solutions do not seem to be succeeding. Sport enables people to have fun, keep fit, be competitive, keep their bodies younger and active and offers feelings of well-being and improves mental health.

The Impact of Exercise on Joints

Joints require motion and some stress in order to keep them healthy. Using a joint enables the synovial fluid stored in the cartilage to be released and supply nutrients and lubrication to the joint. It is also thought that synovial fluid could encourage joint healing and reduction of inflammation.

There is a sport for everyone, but when taking part it is important to look after your muscles and joints and understand how sport could impact on them.

Impact of Exercise on Joints - Shoulder

The Shoulder Joint

The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the human body. It is formed by the meeting of three bones: the scapula (shoulder blade), humerus (upper arm) and the clavicle (collar bone). The joint is made up of two separate joints - the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joints which work together, enabling the arm to rotate around its axis in a large circle.

Shoulder pain can inhibit exercise, so it is important to warm up the muscles before exercising, using gentle stretches. If you experience pain while exercising, then it may be best to slow down the exercise or stop completely depending on the level of pain. An ice pack can help reduce the pain after the exercise.

You should see your GP if you are regularly experiencing shoulder joint pain.

Impact of Exercise on Joints - Lower Spine

Lower Back

It is important to protect our lower backs as they have an important function: working together to support the body’s weight, anchoring the hip and abdominal muscles and protecting vital organs. The lower back vertebral column includes five lumbar vertebrae, sacrum and coccyx. These bones protect the spinal cord and spinal nerves and support the muscles of the lower torso, enabling flexibility of movement. Lumbar vertebrae are the strongest and biggest vertebrae in the spine because of the amount of body weight that they support.

Exercise can help to strengthen our backs and it is important to increase flexibility and support the muscles, ligaments and tendons that support our spine. Before taking part in exercise, it is important to warm up the muscles and ligaments. It is also possible to injure the back, however the more flexible and well-supported by strong muscles and ligaments a back is, the more likely it is to recover quickly from injury. These exercises will help to strengthen your lower back.

You should always see a GP if you are experiencing lower back pain.

Impact of Exercise on Joints - Knee

The Knee Joint

The knee joint is designed to support the body’s weight and allow the lower leg to move freely. We use our knees to sit, stand, walk and run which are everyday activities we take for granted. The knee is a synovial hinge joint which is formed between three bones: the patella, tibia and femur. It is also known as the tibiofemoral joint. The rounded convex condyles or processes at the distal end of the femur are connected to the concave condyles at the proximal end of the tibia. The patella is positioned in front of the femur, forming the knee cap. Tough, rubber-like fibrocartilage (meniscus) acts like a shock absorber so that the meeting bones do not collide together during vigorous exercise. A joint capsule surrounds the knee joint to protect it and offer lubrication and increase strength.Knees are an important part of exercise, and regular exercise can help to strengthen knees and improve their performance, however knees can be injured and as they are a vital part of our everyday activities, it is important to keep them supple and moving.

Warming up your knee joint before taking part in exercise can be an important part of keeping your knees healthy. If you experience pain during exercise, stop. Ice can help with knee pain, but if you are concerned about your knee then you should see your GP.

Impact of Exercise on Joints - Ankle

The Ankle Joint

The ankle or talocrural joint connects the bones of the leg and foot. It is a synovial hinge joint which allows plantar flexion and dorsiflexion of the foot. Three bones meet to form the ankle: the fibular and tibia of the lower leg and the talus of the foot. Ligaments help to connect the bones together and work to prevent the foot from moving too far in the wrong direction.

The ankle joint bears a lot of weight of the body during exercise. It is therefore important to wear well-fitting, supportive trainers which may need to be replaced regularly. Ankles can develop injuries over time through overuse, so it is important to react to ankle pain and see your GP if it is becoming a regular occurrence after exercise. Symptoms of overuse injuries include pain and swelling in your ankle and it should not be ignored.

Keeping our joints healthy is an important part of keeping ourselves well. We need our joints for everyday activities as well as more sustained exercise. If you are concerned that you may have a joint injury, it is best to get it checked out with your doctor who may refer you to physiotherapy to help improve your joint strength.

Relevant Studies:

Urquhart, D.M., et al., What is the effect of physical activity on the knee joint? A systematic review, Med Sci Sports Exerc., 2011, Mar,(43):432-42

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