Have you noticed your body feels less pliable than it used to be?
Maybe you feel like you can’t sit for as long, walk for as long or exercise the same way you used to.
We are told it is just “wear and tear”, we can’t do anything about it, you won’t get any better, its just the way it is now. The term gets thrown around a lot, health professionals find it’s a nicer way of saying it could be osteoarthritic and there’s nothing we can do.
People start to really believe the wear and tear theory after being told it’s the cause of your pain and stiffness by varying medical professionals. When hearing the same thing from different “experts” we tend to take it as the truth of the matter and it’s an easy and convenient explanation to why things keep niggling and coming back to the same area.
Have you been told there’s a bit of arthritis in the joint after an X-ray or MRI? The truth is that there is a poor correlation of evidence between a patient’s symptoms of wear and tear or osteoarthritis and what is shown on an x-ray or MRI. Someone might have their chronically cranky hip X-rayed and nothing shows up, someone else might get an x-ray for a non-related reason and it shows horrible degeneration, but they don’t have any pain or stiffness. And why doesn’t everyone who’s older have pain all the time if everything is “worn out”?
Unlike a tyre from a car or bicycle tyre that wears thin over time, tissues affected by osteoarthritis still contain living cells that respond to movement and function to maintain joint balance. Osteoarthritis is not just a consequence of getting old and repetitive activities, the current theory is that aging might increase susceptibility to developing osteoarthritis but alone these things will not cause it.
Changes outside of the joints like muscle wasting and reduced proprioception are listed as contributors to osteoarthritis, but guess what?
With the elbow for example it should be able straighten out and then bend all the way back in. Most of our joints should have three planes of motion…
…and they work together to get the big motions like moving our arm forward and back. If we have too much of one plane and not enough of the others, then the joints wont function as well as they should. If our three planes do not work together over a long period of time, we might start to see something that sounds or feels like osteoarthritis or wear and tear.
If our joints are moving they way they are designed to, using all 3 planes of motion, the muscles around them also have the opportunity to contract and relax when they need to because the joint motion is telling them when to do it. If the joint is dysfunctional the muscle might be overused or underused and this can possibly result in muscle tightness, tendonitis, ongoing trigger points or strains.
If we can re-train each plane of motion to be available and working efficiently then our long-term cranky joints have more options with movement and the joint will function better. The best thing is when we move more, our joints self-lubricate so we can continue to do this.