When we think of flexibility, we often think about stretching our muscles, but we do not think about the effect it can have on our joints. For some of us stretching is something that we know we should do regularly but never seem to have the time for it. When you break it down, flexibility at the core is the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion without restrictions.
What most people do not know is that by moving the joints we are helping to nourish the area between the bones to keep them healthy. Moving a joint through the full range of motion promotes the process of imbibition ,which is the absorption of fluid in the joint. Once the fluid is absorbed the body then replenishes the joint with new fluid. This process is comparable to changing oil in a car to keep the engine moving well and reducing friction between metal surfaces. When we only move a joint through a limited range of motion, we lose the ability to move the fluid into and out of the joint resulting in tissue death. The tissue that begins to break down is the cartilage that sits between the surfaces of our bones acting as a cushion to help absorb forces put on the body during our daily activities.
Our joints will adapt to what we are asking them to do, and if we stop asking them to move through their full range of motion, we start to breakdown. After we stop moving the joints, the muscles begin to shorten and become tight because they are also not being asked to stretch and elongate anymore. Simple activities like bending forward to pick up something off the floor or sitting on the ground to play with a child become a chore because we no longer have the flexibility we once had. Most of our activities include sitting, standing, and walking and we rarely challenge ourselves to move beyond those postures. Most people have been stiff for so long that we do not even know what normal movement looks like anymore. In the picture below you will seethe child demonstrating how we should be able to squat. The gentleman on the right is attempting to perform a squat but due to decreased mobility of his joints and increased tightness of his muscles is no longer able to perform a normal squat. If you are curious to know what normal movement looks like and how you should be moving sign up for a free screening today at one of our three locations.