When One Joint Closes Another Opens

Movement is an amazing thing we are all capable of doing. Watch any “People are Awesome” video on YouTube, and you will be stunned at what the human form is able to do. Or watch any high-level athlete perform and notice how easy they make everything appear. When the body is highly conditioned and balanced, it is easier to perform complex actions. When joints are in their proper place movement is almost effortless.

Joint Diagram 1But what is a joint? What is an elbow or a knee, really? Have you ever stopped to think about it? Simply put, a joint is the space between bones. Sure there are several types of soft tissue that surround the space (tendons, cartilage, ligaments, etc.) but ultimately it is the space itself which defines the joint. If there is too little space, there will be compression, wearing and tearing. If there is too much space, there will be laxity, instability and possibly dislocation. Which joint is healthier? The answer is neither. A joint with too much space is at just as much risk of injury as the joint with too little. So there is this “Goldilocks” place in which all joints should ideally exist. It shouldn’t be too little or too much but just right.

Joint Diagram 2The really interesting thing is how the unconscious part of the brain that regulates movement and structure will always strive for perfection. If the joints of the body have just the right amount of space, the brain will try and keep it that way.

However, if the body suffers an injury, surgery, or is confined to one position for prolonged periods of time the space of some joints may very well change. No matter what, the brain will find the best way to get around the issue in that moment. The most common ways it deals with such situations are to allow other joints to move more when another becomes restricted or to allow the same joint to move more in a different direction. When one joint closes (loses space) another one opens (creates more space).
It is not uncommon for someone with tight, compressed hips to have lower back or knee pain. If the hips are not able to move freely, then a neighboring joint like the back or knee may very well attempt to move more. Unfortunately, knees and lower backs are not meant to perform the work of the hips, hence the painful reaction. Perhaps your neck is restricted rotating left to right but greatly flexes side to side? One movement increases when another decreases.

These scenarios might not always result in pain, but it does not mean the joints are in their Goldilocks place. Have you ever noticed how your body is more flexible in one hip compared to the other? Do you have one shoulder that is stiffer than the other? What might be nice is to get a more full understanding of how your joints move and how they do not. Take ten minutes and find out. Follow along with this little backyard video we put together.

It will guide you through a movement screening so you can gain an experience of how you really move. Once you get this knowledge, then you can begin to realize the movements you are missing or are incapable of performing and what to do about it. That’s when the fun begins; getting your body to move better with less effort. If you would prefer our staff to guide you through the process that’s why we are here.