Joints & Muscles
Joints hold bones together while allowing a degree of movement between them. In some cases they also offer a protective function. As well as connecting bones to each other they also connect cartilage to bone and teeth to bone.
Joints are usually classified according to the movement they allow or by their structure. Some joints such as those found in the arm and hip sockets are freely moveable and permit greater flexibility. Freely moveable joints contain a lubricating fluid to reduce friction and prevent bone moving upon bone.
Other types of joints permit less movement and only are slightly moveable. Each joint between the bones of the spine, for example, is only slightly moveable but the number of bones stacked upon each other plus the disc that lies in between each joint permit a collective flexibility. Some joints barely move at all and may be described as immovable, but these can still be manipulated by therapists trained in cranial-sacral therapy and cranial osteopathy.
Ligaments attach bone to bone and give the bones stability. Ligaments are only slightly elastic but can gradually be lengthened and stretched with good techniques to increase their elastic capacity. If you know someone who is double-jointed, this is because their ligaments have more elastic tissue in them. Of course the joint is a lot less stable as a result and is more easily dislocated. Athletes such as footballers may tear the 4 ligaments around the knee and these injures take a long time to repair.
Tendons have a different function and attach a muscle to a bone so that the bone can move. You will have heard of the Achilles tendon that attaches the heel to the calf muscle. Tendons heal a little more quickly than ligaments.
As well as trauma, the joints, ligaments and tendons are at risk from inflammation and infection. Tendonitis, bursitis, gout and arthritis are some examples of problems in these structures and tissues. Really good nutrition eliminates inflammation and later in this article we give you great information about how you can eliminate the pain, swelling and limitation that accompany inflamed joints and muscles.
Maintaining joint health is very important and many people ignore strength and flexibility until it is too late. The huge increase in numbers of people waiting for a hip or knee replacement is extraordinary. Whilst some deterioration in joint function is not unusual with ageing, it is not a normal part of ageing to require new joints at 50-70 years of age. Obesity and lack of exercise are major factors involved in this middle aged epidemic. Your body is designed to be fully moved so a range of exercise such as yoga and Pilates or dancing, swimming and gardening is best combined with walking and muscle-strengthening exercises.
There are three main types of muscle tissue and together they make between 40 and 50 percent of body weight in a healthy person. Movement happens because muscles are able to move quickly by contracting and relaxing. Put another way, muscles move bones by pulling on them. Specialised cells are able to transfer the energy of chemicals into mechanical energy. The force generated can produce movement and perform work.
- Voluntary muscle or "skeletal muscle" is attached to bone (or skin) and so provides movement. It is under control of will and is stimulated to contract and relax by nerve impulses in brain and spinal cord.
- Involuntary muscle or "smooth muscle" is not under the control of our will. It contracts and relaxes in response to hormones and other chemicals, and signals from the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. It is found in all the muscular layers of the internal organs of the body including your digestive organs, blood and lymph vessels.
- Cardiac muscle is designed to ensure that individual heart muscle fibres can be rested and not become exhausted with constant work. An inbuilt pacemaker maintains a minimum heartbeat of 40 beats per minute. Extra cardiac strength is supplied by hormones and neurotransmitters. More information about heart health is available at this link.
Muscle keeps you warm
All muscles alternate between contraction and relaxation and this produces heat. Muscles therefore are vital for maintaining body temperature. Up to 85 percent of voluntary muscle activity is used for maintaining body temperature. If the body temperature is too low, involuntary shivering occurs which has the effect of stimulating skeletal muscle to produce extra heat. Older people may have difficulty staying warm because they no longer have bulky muscles and may be unable to move very much due to other factors. This is one reason why weight training is so important for those over 60 who are motivated to maintain muscle mass for as long as possible.
Muscles make you move
Skeletal muscle produces body movement by the attachment of the tendons to skin or bone. At a joint the muscle passes over the joint so that when it contracts it pulls one bone towards another.
Muscles make you stable & provide connectivity
As well as providing movement and heat, muscles also provide stability of posture and alignment. Muscles require a great deal of energy to perform their work and are richly supplied with blood, lymph vessels and nerves. Muscles are surrounded by layers of connective tissue for protection, support and communication purposes. Connective tissue is the most abundant type of tissue in the body. Many body workers such as Bowen therapists will work on this connective tissue to create positive change. Body workers can quickly detect disturbance in the tissue which carries the blood, lymphatic and nervous vessels to each muscle fibre. It is believed that the "memory" of past events and trauma is retained in this tissue and may account for the resurgence of forgotten memories which can be activated during bodywork. Using essential oils in bodywork may also help to recall past events.
Muscles produce waste products during activity which are broken down by a series of chemical reactions to form lactic acid. Muscle fatigue can be reduced or prevented during exercise with adequate preparation or warm-up. This is because fibres contract in a series and rarely all at the same time. Other preventative factors include higher levels of carbohydrate food before exercise for a quick but sustained energy source, plus adequate training. Energy should come from the breakdown of carbohydrates initially and then fats during aerobic exercise. Protein breakdown is a pathological process during starvation and certain illnesses such as anorexia. Good protein intake is, however, vital for muscle repair. Superfood Plus is an excellent food choice for athletes. High in plant protein, carbohydrate and natural plant oils, it is easily digested and ready for the body to use before, during and after workouts.
Researchers now understand that we need variety in exercise to maintain skeletal muscle tone – some stretch, some endurance exercise with some weight training. Strong flexible muscles and tendons will stabilise joints and protect bones from injury. But not everyone will lose weight as a response to increase in exercise. Super-responders will and non-responders will not. About 70 percent of the population falls somewhere between these two extremes!
The well-being of our muscles, bones, tissues and joints doesn't simply depend on how much we "wear and tear" tissues. Movement in daily walking, running, lifting, bending, sitting or lying is natural – we should be active. Athletes, who put a lot of stress on these structural tissues, take precautions to minimise damage to them. In fact, more damage is done by low levels of activity and stagnation of tissues. Most important to protect these tissues is our internal health and the food we use to create and support this moving structure. Sugar, sweet drinks, processed foods, tea and coffee are examples of foods that will strip nutrients from the body, including magnesium, calcium and vitamin C that are particularly vital for the formation and repair of bone, muscle, cartilage and joint fluid. Magnesium, calcium and vitamin C can be found in dark greens, seaweeds and whole grains and should be consumed daily. Also note that iron is vital to structural well-being. Night twitching or "restless legs" is a common sign of a lack of iron or magnesium and could be an indication that you are low in these minerals. Hedgerow nettles can be collected and used as a good source of minerals, including calcium and iron – or use wild crafted Nettle Herbal Tea. Vitamins A, E, B vitamins and zinc are also important for the synthesis and maintenance of good structure. Ensure that you eat foods that are rich in zinc and the above vitamins, such as red peppers, whole grains, pumpkin seeds and carrots. Superfood Plus contains all of these as well as some essential fatty acids that can help with good lubrication of the joints.
Menopausal woman need to ensure oestrogen and progesterone levels are maintained in order to guard against osteoporosis.
For serious injury, stop all food for a few days and switch to Superfood Plus, juices and herb teas in order to allow the healing process to begin quickly.
For joint aches and inflammation there is a great need to release toxins which are all too frequently causing the uncomfortable symptoms. Foods that help release these will be vital e.g. celery and celery seed; cook with these, juice the celery or eat it raw. Swap caffeine-containing drinks for herbal teas such as Parsley & Cornsilk Herbal Tea, which is gently detoxifying and supportive for the kidneys. Superfood Plus is also detoxifying, especially the chlorella content.
- Much benefit can be derived from practitioners who are able to manipulate and massage muscles, bones and joints into correct positions. These include osteopaths, chiropractors, masseurs and many other kinds of body workers. Extremely useful for the well-being of external function, these methods also affect all organs and systems and their neurological pathways that radiate along the entire length of the spine. In fact, the well-being of the spine alone is crucial, and much is rightly made of this in yoga and pilates which provide an ideal way to service and tune one's framework and internal organs at the same time.
- A home-made poultice using Turmeric Powder is a handy kitchen option for treating injuries such as bruises, fracture, swellings and sprains. Mix enough powder with a little hot water to make a thick paste and apply it to the affected area. Keep it well covered and sealed because it does stain clothes and skin. St. John's Wort Oil is another wonderful remedy for bruises, sprains and joint and muscle pain. It will dull and numb the pain of pinched and damaged nerves. Arnica flowers are used as a homeopathic remedy for bruises and as an anti-inflammatory; creams made with arnica are easily available in health food shops and pharmacies.
- Cold packs (or bags of frozen peas) are advisable when swelling and pain is acute. Once symptoms have subsided, continue treatment using hot and cold packs.
- When an injury feels as though it is starting to mend, start gentle exercise to strengthen the muscles. Begin with armchair exercises or gentle movement in the bath. Graduate to swimming, walking and body work in the gym. Professional advice is best sought as to when and how this is carried out and chiropractic and osteopath clinics frequently specialise in recuperative strategies.
Our herbal formulae are strong flavoured and effective. Our herbs enjoy a long history of use. A large proportion of them are grown in English soils, harvested using bio-chemistry analysis and many of them are processed fresh, which heightens their remedial properties. The majority are grown organically and are sustainable and wild-crafted. All manufacturing is carried out using licensed good manufacturing practice.