Just like the joints and connections of a piece of machinery have oil or WD40 to keep things moving without creaking and squeaking, so do our joints in a way. I’ve used this analogy about WD40 and natural joint fluid about 20 times in the past week, so I figured it was good material for my latest blog post. Did you know that our joints have their own natural WD40? It’s called synovial fluid and it lines and fills the inside of the joints in the body. It lubricates the joint surfaces and allows them to roll, glide, slide, and move without (or with less) stiffness or pain. When we are younger, we have plenty of good, young, healthy synovial fluid inside of our young, healthy joints. As we get a little older, the joints get a little stiff, the fluid gets a little less supple and plentiful. It takes a little more work to get that synovial fluid or “natural WD40” doing its job.
Here’s a picture of a joint and how the synovial fluid sits between the ends of the bone.
Now that you know that you have your very own joint WD40 (pretty cool!), what can you do to use it to your advantage? How do you keep your WD40 doing its job? If you’ve ever heard the term “motion is lotion,” this is your answer. In order for the joints to keep themselves lubricated, you have to keep them moving. Still joints are stiff joints because the synovial fluid doesn’t get a chance to work its way through the joint and keep things moving smoothly. So the simple answer is keep moving and don’t stay stagnant too long.
Here are some ways to keep the different joints in your body lubricated and moving smoothly (these should all be painless, so don't proceed through any pain unless supervised by a PT or medical professional):
Neck: Turn your head left and right, up and down, side to side 10 times each
Shoulders: Reach overhead then behind your back, 10 times each
Elbows: Bend and straighten your elbows, then turn palms up and down, 10 times each
Wrists: Make circles with your wrist and bend them up and down, 10 times each
Hands: Open and close your hands 10 times each
Back: In sitting, gently twist left and right in the comfortable range, 10 times each
Hips: March in place as high as you can either sitting or standing, alternating legs, 10 times each
Knees: In sitting or lying, kick your knees out straight, then bend them back, 10 times each
Ankles: In sitting or lying, move your ankles up and down, then in and out, 10 times each
Feet: Scrunch your toes, then splay them out, 10 times each
You can get through the movements above within 5-10 minutes and use this as a warm-up to your day or to loosen up after prolonged periods of sitting. This is especially great if you have arthritis. Just make sure none of these movements are painful. If any of these movements are painful, make sure you contact your local Physical Therapist as this is a potential sign of faulty movement patterns that may be contributing to your joint stiffness.
Our bodies are pretty amazing and they try to help us out when they can. So use movement and mobility to your advantage and keep those joints moving!
In good health,
Dr. Ashley Bertorelli