The Basics of Joint Health

The Basics of Joint Health

Did you ever stop to think about the joints, bones and muscles in your body? Everyone talks about the heart and the lung systems, but every time we sit, stand up, walk, run, stretch, we use our musculoskeletal system.  Before we get into what Rheumatology is, let us get back to the basics of bone and joint health.  Here are some fun facts you need to know first about our important musculoskeletal system.

What makes up the musculoskeletal system?

The musculoskeletal system consists of the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, cartilage and ligaments in your body. All help us to engage in our daily physical activities.

The joint is the section where two bones meet and are formed by tissue called ligaments to connect one bone to another.

There are some major players in our joint system. The tough elastic tendons are important in helping connect the muscle to the bone while another tissue called cartilage covers and cushions the bones to avoid direct rubbing against each other.  Arthritis can occur when the cartilage wears away over time.

In our lifetime, things can happen to our bones, muscles and joints like a break, weakening, damage or injury.  This can happen in childhood, teens and adulthood.

It’s all about the BONES!!

  • There are 206 bones in the adult human body, most are found in the hands and feet. As infants and babies, we are born with more bones in which some (like the skull) are fused over time.
  • Without the 54 bones in your hands, fingers, and wrists, we would have a hard time with writing, typing on keyboards, gripping objects or playing the piano.
  • Who knew that smallest bones in our body play an important role in hearing? The three small auditory ossicles lie within the middle ear and help transmit sound through sound vibrations.
  • The three largest and longest bones can be found in the leg.  The largest bone is the femur (thigh bone), followed by the tibia (shin bone) and fibula (lower leg bone). Runners and cyclists cherish these bones!!
  • Some bones are more mobile than others.  Our cranium is fixed while our knees, shoulders and wrists have synovial fluid which helps with joint mobility.  When the synovium gets inflamed or irritated, this may cause joint pain and swelling.
  • Our bones make up the human skeleton and enhance movement of body parts as well as support our bodies and protect our most important organs (brain, heart, intestines, and lungs) from impact.

During puberty, our bones stop growing in length but the bone density or quality of the bones change during a lifespan, with bone density increasing until approximately age 30 (early thirties).  As humans continue to age, the bone quality will decline.  In order to maintain healthy bones, we can do these simple tasks:

  1. Get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet
  2. Make sure exercise including light weight bearing activities is part of your lifestyle
  3. Modify risk factors like smoking and limit alcohol consumption.

We can’t forget about our MUSCLES?

There are over 600 muscles which help our body to perform big movements like walking, standing, running and swimming and little movements like smiling and chewing.  Our muscles even help our bodies perform critical functions like breathing, controlling eye movement and pumping blood through the heart.

Ladies, we could not get through pregnancy or childbirth without the help of the smooth muscles in our uterus!

Our largest muscle, the gluteus maximus or buttocks muscle helps us walk up the stairs and maintain good posture.

Make sure to focus on those gluteus muscles while working out!!

It is truly amazing on how these different components of the human body make connections to facilitate movement in our daily lives without us thinking about it!

References:  Check out, Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Rheumatology (3rd edition) and Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology (9th edition) for more information.

September is also Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month