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Back to Basics: How Joints Work

Our bodies are simply amazing. They are capable of doing so many things, some of which we don’t even notice until they are no longer functioning correctly. That’s the case for many of the New Yorkers that I see in my clinic. You might notice that you have perfectly healthy knees or hips one day, and the next, they are painful. Or perhaps your aches and pains developed over time, gradually getting worse until they become debilitating enough to impact your daily activities.

So how did you get to this point? What exactly is a joint, and why is yours hurting? For many people, basic science classes took place many years ago, and the information you picked up there might not be as fresh as it once was. In this blog, we’re going back to the basics to help you have a better understanding of how your joints function and what happens when things go wrong.

Anatomy 101

By definition, a joint is a spot where two bones meet and are able to move in conjunction with one another. Hips and knees are two examples of joints in the human body. Joints are made up of several components, including cartilage, muscles, joint fluid, ligaments, and bursa. These parts work together to keep bones close while still allowing them to move smoothly. Joints also function to reduce friction between bones when you walk, run, or otherwise move. This keeps your bones healthy and also reduces pain that could happen when bones bump into one another.

Difference in Knees and Hips

Aside from their placement in your body, a key difference between hips and knees is their joint type. Your knees are hinge joints. To better understand how they work, think about what happens when you open up a door. The hinge that’s connected to the wall allows the door to move forward and backward without expanding too far beyond the door frame. Your knees function in a similar way. In contrast, your hips are ball and socket joints, which are considered the most flexible of all joint varieties. Your shoulder is another example of this type.

When Things Go Wrong

Unfortunately, joints don’t always last for a lifetime. Over the years, the components that make up the joint can wear down, making them less helpful than they were in your younger days. Arthritis is a common culprit when it comes to joints becoming less effective. This can make movement more painful and possibly stand in the way of you doing the activities that you love. Fortunately, technology and research has led to a range of treatment options, including total joint replacement, as well as minimally invasive repairs and it partial replacements. If you are having work done on a joint, the technique used will depend on the extent of your damage as well as your plans for the future.

Joint health can be a little overwhelming, especially if it has never before been an issue for you. If you have any questions about your hips or knees and their future, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m always happy to help individuals have a better understanding of their joints and their options for care.

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