Your joints are the place where bones meet and synovial type joints are what allows movement and flexibility. And having joint problems and disorders can make getting around very difficult.
Under healthy conditions, bones in a joint don’t have direct contact because they are cushioned by cartilage, membrane and synovial fluid. However, when you have a joint problem or disorder it can cause temporary or permanent damage within this space between bones. And you’re often made aware of the issue via decreased range of motion and arthralgia.
Range of motion is the distance and direction your joint moves, which are either classified as immovable (skull), partially movable (ribs) and freely movable (hip). Most often joint damage occurs in the freely movable, aka synovial joints.
Synovial joints allow you to move in numerous ways. But they don’t all move in the same manner. Here are the various types of freely movable joints:
- pivot joint ~ rotate or twist (neck)
- gliding joint ~ bones slide past each other (foot)
- hinge joint ~ move in basically one direction (knees & elbows)
- ellipsoid joint ~ similar to ball and socket, to lesser extent (wrist)
- saddle joint ~ up & down, side to side movement (thumb only one)
- ball-and-socket joint ~ greatest freedom to move (hips & shoulders)
As you age, your joints become stiffer and less flexible because fluid tends to decrease and the cartilage frequently rubs together and deteriorates. This causes joint damage symptoms of inflammation, pain, stiffness and deformity.
Yet, joint damage can also be caused or associated with many other types of joint problems or disorders, like:
- bone spur
- joint scarring
- bone fracture
- joint infection
- ganglion cyst
- gouty arthritis
- joint contracture
- joint calcification
- synovial sarcoma
- Reiter’s syndrome
- rheumatoid arthritis
- loose bone fragment
- torn ligament, tendon
- ankylosing spondylitis
- joint tissue overgrowth
- chondromalacia patella
- joint lining inflammation
- neuromuscular disorder
- polymyalgia rheumatica
- connective tissue disorder
- juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- damaged, torn, inflamed cartilage
Treatment of a joint problem or disorder depends on the cause for your joint damage.
In some cases of joint problems or disorders, the damage may require much more extensive treatment, such as:
- heat application
- cortisone injection
- cast, joint brace immobility
- joint aspiration ~ taking fluid out
- OTC NSAIDs, prescription pain reliever
- glucosamine & chondroitin sulfate supplementation
Unfortunately, some joint problems and disorders need arthroscopic or joint replacement surgery. Arthroscopic treatment makes a tiny incision to see inside your joint and repair minor types of joint damage. Joint replacement removes the damaged portion of your joint and replaces it. And depending on your joint’s damage, a total replacement may be necessary.
Two critical lifestyle adjustments for protecting and preserving your joints is to keep your weight down and regular exercise. Being overweight causes additional stress on your joints and exercise strengthens surrounding muscles, which helps keep joints from rubbing against each other and wearing down joint cartilage.