The joints are often the most neglected part of the body for an athlete, as the focus is mostly on muscle strength and endurance. Yet, they can be the most problematic for anyone who moves, which is pretty much, well, everyone. Regardless of athletic ability or fitness level, healthy joints mean happy joints and happy joints are not inflamed or in pain. But how do you get and keep healthy joints? The answer lies in joint stability and mobility – essentially, how the joint functions.
Movement comes from the joints. So, when joints are in pain or otherwise unhealthy, it can present itself as pain and make movement difficult. Usually, when someone has joint pain, they also have a problem with joint mobility. Lack of joint mobility often has an underlying cause and is often related to joint stability.
What Is Joint Stability & Mobility?
When you move your arm up or down or in a circle you’re utilizing your joint mobility or range of motion. Joint mobility refers to the movement around a joint. Having a full range of motion means you have healthy joints. However, if you have difficulty with your range of motion, it could indicate an underlying problem or be the result of an injury.
Even if you have a full range of motion, you may still have a problem with your joint stability. According to the American Council on Exercise, joint stability means having control.
Joint Stability is defined as: the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position.
Even if you can move in a full range of motion freely, you could still be at a high risk of injury if you have unstable joints. Instability occurs when the tissues, ligaments, and muscles surrounding a joint are weak, torn, overstretched, or otherwise stressed. If you have unstable joints, it can cause an unhealthy range of motion in your joint, further leading to joint fracturing, dislocation, or other injuries to the joints.
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Why Mobility & Stability Matter
Many people may not be aware that they have an unhealthy range of motion or unstable joints. Some people go through life without realizing that their overextending joints is detrimental to their health or their inability to extend a normal amount. Overextension, also called hypermobility, occurs when the ligaments around the joint are too loose. Weak muscles are also to blame for hypermobility.
On the other hand, the inability to extend to a normal amount indicated stiffness. Stiffness results in lack of range of motion, which can also lead to injury. Not being able to move freely can result in pain and injury just as much as moving without control. Furthermore, lack of joint motion can cause the joint itself to degenerate, making it inefficient and unreliable in functionality. The reality is that joints rely on movement and motion to remain healthy and function properly. Without movement or with uncontrolled movement, they’re put at risk of injury or degeneration.
Injury prevention and pain management are about getting the body to function normally and optimally. It means working on the body to achieve full range of motion and mobility but to do it with control. So, working on joints to ensure a proper range of motion and control are essential for not only athletic performance but also everyday movement.
Your Daily Joint Mobility & Stability Routine
If you’re having joint pain or have a joint injury, it’s important to seek professional help in rehabilitation. A physical therapist will help you restore lost range of motion as well as ensure you move with control and stability. Furthermore, they will give you exercises to continue to do passed therapy so that you can keep your joints healthy and prevent injury, stiffness, imbalance, and inflammation.
Being able to have controlled full of motion not only ensures healthy joints but also gives your muscles more strength and power. When have controlled joint mobility, your connecting muscles are able to completely contract and expand during each movement and exercise. This means that you can gain the most from each exercise and work efficiently.
Joint mobility and stability exercises do not need to be intense or complicated. In fact, the simplest ones are often the best. These exercises are usually even done as a warm-up and should be done during your warm-ups before you start your exercising. They’re also good to do upon waking up. Furthermore, if you sit most of the day like most people, your joints tend to be more stiff as well as lack stability from lack of usage. Using these exercises during the day when you take a break of sitting will keep your joints healthy.
- Neck circles (good for those who stare at screens all day long)
- Backstroke (backward arm circles)
- Butterfly stroke (forward and backward)
- Hip circles (or pelvic circles)
- Cat cow
- Ankle circles
- Wrist circles (good for those who work on keyboards all day long)