SAVING OUR JOINTS

Issue

Our range of motion how far we can move a joint in various directions is determined by many things, starting with the inner workings of the joints involved. Also important is the amount of tension in the muscles surrounding the joint, which can be affected by scarring or our habitual posture (passive factors), or by involuntary muscle spasms or purposeful muscle contractions (active factors).

Stretching exercises can help extend our range of motion. To understand how, it helps to know what joints, tendons, and ligaments do:

Stretching is an excellent thing to do for our health. These simple, yet effective moves can help limber up for sports, improve our balance and prevent falls, increase our flexibility, and even help relieve arthritis, back, and knee pain. Whether an armchair athlete or a sports enthusiast, effective stretching routines that meet our needs and ability.

Joints are the junctions that link bones together. The architecture of each joint — that is, whether its structure is a hinge, pivot, or ball-in-socket — determines how the bones can move.

Tendons are flexible cords of strong tissue that connect muscles to bones. Ligaments are tough, fibrous bands of tissue that bind bone to bone, or bone to cartilage, at a joint. An example is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of five ligaments that together control the movements of the knee. Among other things, the ACL keeps the knee joint from rotating too far.

When stretching, we're working muscles and tendons rather than ligaments. Ligaments are not supposed to be elastic. An overly stretchy ligament wouldn't provide the stability and support needed for a safe range of movement.

For more info: www.health.harvard.edu
Email: healthbeat@health.harvard.edu