My last post on what to do when your hip feels tight, was about how the presence of fluid in the joint can derail muscle function and what to do about that.
In this post, I’ll talk about why the fluid is there to being with.
When you’re over the age of 40 (and some people believe the age is closer to 35), the joint surface, the articular cartilage that covers the end of the bones, can soften or get weak (and why that happens is for another day).
The function of cartilage is to dissipate force in the joint and create a near frictionless motion.
When the joint surface softens, two things happen.
First, forces traveling through the joint are no longer dissipated by the cartilage as well and now that force is absorbed more by other tissues – ligaments, tendons, joint capsule, bone. Over time, the force these tissues have to manage in can exceed their capacity. The result is an irritation of the joint and, usually, irritation of one or more of the other soft tissues.
Second, the motion is no longer near friction-free. There’s some resistance now in the movement, well below your perception since cartilage has no nerve ending, but it’s there.
So, let’s make this more practical.
You decide to go for a run because you’re tired of carrying the extra 20lbs around your middle (or thighs or rear end or wherever).
But you’ve not run in a while.
Off you go for a somewhat tortuous 3-mile jog.
At the end of this run, you feel fine. As you do for several days.
However, after about 10 days, you notice that your right hip feels tight. Maybe aches a bit too.
You think, “I guess I should stretch this out” and consult Dr. Google to find the best stretches for a tight hip.
And you’ll get about 29,400,000 results and none of them will work well or if they do, when you try to run again, you’ll be right back where you started with an aching, tight hip joint.
What’s happening in the joint is that the sudden increase in force from running, which is several times your bodyweight, is way over what your joint is used to. The result is a slow onset of swelling which creates the tightness and aching.
As I mentioned in the last post, it’s a normal reaction to feel the need to stretch when something is tight…and so you do.
When you show up in a clinic for an assessment, the clinician (therapist, trainer, doctor, chiropractor, etc) will no doubt find a number of biomechanical flaws in you. Maybe your foot pronates too much, your pelvis is out of whack, your gluteal muscles are weak, hip flexors are tight, hamstrings are tight, abdominals are weak.
And guess what? Most of those problems were there before you had the hip tightness.
Load exposes movement flaws but fixing movement flaws first does not restore health to your joint.
Your joint is just as weak and vulnerable upon restoration of that whole list of movement problems I mentioned earlier.
It’s the same thing with arthroscopy for debridement of a joint. After the joint debridement, which means the removal of soft, fraying cartilage, you often feel better but your joint health and joint strength are exactly the same as before surgery.
Restore joint health first then movement. Doing this gives you a longer “warranty” on the fix.
A healthy, strong joint combined with the optimal movement pattern for you (since none of us have the perfect limb segment length to trunk ratios, none of us have perfect movement) gives you the best long-term outcome and best chance at living the kind of active life you want.
That’s all I have for now.
Thanks for reading.
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