Motion is Lotion: How exercise helps to protect your joints

There are many reasons why people exercise, but have you ever thought about how much exercise helps your joints?  Many people tend to think that when a joint hurts we need to immobilize it so it will get better. However, research shows that this simply isn’t the case.

Our joints are comprised of two bony surfaces that articulate with each other. These surfaces are covered by cartilage so that the hard surfaces of the bone don’t rub together. The entire joint space is surrounded by a capsule filled with synovial fluid which further helps to lubricate the joint as well as act as a shock absorber and nutrient source for the cartilage. A very important lubricating component of synovial fluid is hyaluronic acid (HA) which lowers its viscosity so that it can better protect your joint. Guess what helps the joint produce more HA? MOVEMENT! Guess how your cartilage gets its nutrients so that it doesn’t deteriorate? MOVEMENT!

Doctors at the University College London showed that by immobilizing the knee joint patients’ HA levels decreased by more than 50%! Another study in Pain Journal reported that increased HA levels lessened pain signals from the joint to the spinal cord. So the loss of HA actually leads to increased pain! This tells us that keeping that painful joint from moving isn’t the best idea after all. Even passive movement can increase the lubricating properties of your joint as well as keep your cartilage from deteriorating. Passive movement can be performed by any qualified health or fitness professional.

So the next time your joint starts to hurt, don’t keep it locked up. Remember that “motion is lotion”, and contact your personal trainer, massage therapist, and/or physical therapist to help you get through the rough patch so that both you and your joints are happy and healthy.