Think why you add oil to your car or bike chain. Then think of movement doing the same for oiling your joints. Here’s one of the reasons why it’s important to be active and how to become more active safely.
Joints: A Simple Explanation
Where two bones meet to form a joint, the end of each bone is covered by a shiny, smooth white surface called the cartilage. These joints with cartilage are often where we experience pain, e.g., the vertebrae in the spine, hip, knee, elbow, wrist, etc.
Cartilage has two purposes:
- To help joints move better by stopping the bones rubbing together (i.e., reducing friction).
- To spread the weight placed on the joint throughout the bone end to prevent bone wear and tear.
Cartilage has special tissues that make and release our ‘oil’, a lubricating fluid called ‘lubricin’. Lubricin is key to normal bone function as it forms a protective cover over the cartilage which helps the bones glide over each other, thus protecting them from wear and tear.
Alas, it’s now known that:
- The amount of lubricin in joints drops considerably after an injury (and can remain low for up to a year).
- Arthritic joints contain less lubricin that non-arthritic joints. This, in part, explains why NICE (the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care, April 2022) recommends that medics reduce the prescription of strong pain medication for those with osteoarthritis and instead promote regular exercise.
Why ‘Motion is Lotion’
Movement and weight bearing encourages the production of lubricin. This keeps the cartilage shiny, smooth, strong and hard, thus protecting the cartilage and bones at the joint from wear and tear.
- Always check with a trusted medic/physio, etc., that they have no concerns about you becoming more active. For example, a new injury might benefit from a couple of days rest to allow early healing.
- Avoid ‘boom and bust’ or flare-ups. Increase activity a little at a time by moving at a level of discomfort. Never move at a level that causes pain during or after.
We hope this article has been of interest and helpful.
NICE (April, 2022) Guideline Osteoarthritis: Assessment and Management. Draft for consultation (see page 20)