Show a Little Love to an Oft-Forgotten Joint: The Elbow
By Dr. Molly Casey
Until people feel pain or struggle with function in certain areas of their body, they usually pay very little if any attention to it. That can be dangerous. Proper elbow function and pain-free movement are more important than you think. Elbow issues can be debilitating or, at the very least, slow you down significantly. Let’s learn about this important joint -- one we often take for granted -- and a few ways you can care for it optimally.
The elbow is a synovial joint, meaning it’s between bones that move against each other; think hip, knee, elbow rather than joints in the skull that have cartilage between them and don’t move much. A synovial joint has at least two bones, a joint capsule that wraps or contains the joint, a synovial membrane that lines the capsule and produces synovial fluid that, along with cartilage, promotes smooth movement between the bones. The elbow joint consists of three bones, the humerus (arm), the radius (forearm bone on the thumb side) and ulna (forearm bone on the pinky side).
Activities That Affect the Elbow
The elbow joint is an often forgotten joint, especially in daily life and working out. Do any of the scenarios below sound familiar that you regularly engage with?
Daily life: Spending hours on end at the computer with the elbow and forearm in the same position. Job tasks that require the exact same movements, perhaps rotating the forearm in and out, over and over again.
Working Out: Engaging in recreational sports like tennis, golf or boxing that call for the same repetitive motions of the forearm throughout the activity. Working out at the gym and lifting weights but you overextend the actual elbow joint and have it loaded with weight. Playing a game in which it is common the elbow joint may be hit from time to time.
Support the Elbow
One need not wait for elbow pain and/or an injury to start supporting the health of the elbow joint. There are regular practices to participate in that will give you the best fighting chance to keep your elbow at tip-top shape and as pain- and injury-free as possible.
Chiropractic: Adjustments of the cervical spine and upper thoracic spine will assist in proper nervous system function and optimal communication. This is the foundation of peak functioning in any/every area of the body, including the elbow. The nerves that bring information to the elbow joint and surrounding musculature exit the spine at the cervical level (neck) and the functioning of those levels and upper thoracic contribute to proper extremity use. In addition, chiropractors can also manipulate the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints, thereby assuring that proper joint range of motion at all of those levels will support the health and function of the elbow.
Posture: Correct posture promotes proper use of joints in the spine and extremities. So start at the core of the body and address posture first. Stand in front of a mirror, pull your shoulder blades down and back. Naturally you’ll notice you start to stand straighter. Next, pretend there is a string above you pulling the top of your head straight up. You’ll notice you stand even straighter, your core will become more engaged, and breathing deeper into the bottom of your belly will occur much more naturally. This proper posture will set you up to use the shoulder optimally from a stable position where you will have the most strength and range of motion, which will also support optimal elbow functioning.
Stretching: Stretching the forearm is an important part of optimal support of the joint and a common move that people often forget. A good stretch is to extend the arm out in front of you, lock the elbow but don’t overextend it; point your fingers up toward the sky; use the opposite hand to stretch (or pull) the fingers on the outstretched hand back toward the forearm for 30 seconds. Then do the reverse by pointing the fingers down toward the floor and pressing/pulling the fingers of the outstretched arm down toward the floor/inside of forearm for 30 seconds. Then repeat with the other forearm. You can additionally do this on the floor if you’re more comfortable.
You don’t have to wait for pain and problems before you support your joints. Certainly don’t wait until your elbow is causing problems before giving it a bit of attention and love. Stop into The Joint Chiropractic to let us help you support your joints and overall quality of health and life with regular chiropractic adjustments.
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