Joints are pivotal (pun intended) parts of the skeletal framework. No movement or action would be possible without joints facilitating the smooth transfer of force through the biomechanical chain. However, being on the heavier side, junk food consumption and even nicotine impacts joint health, decreasing their functionality. Ensuring good joint health is necessary for pain free movement, and one major aspect of it is joint lubrication.
Joint lubrication and its importance
“The joints of the human body are coated and moistened to facilitate smooth movement between the surfaces of the bones that form the joint. This is what we refer to as joint lubrication,” says Dr Kiran Chouka, consultant, orthopaedic joint replacement and arthroscopic surgeon, Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore.
Synovial fluid produced by the synovial membrane present on the inner side of the joint is responsible for joint lubrication. It coats the cartilage and bone endings of the joint.
“Apart from lubrication, the synovial fluid reduces the friction between the two surfaces of the bones within the joint, allowing them to glide smoothly during movement,” adds Dr Chouka. “It aids in absorbing shock and distributing the forces experienced by the joint during any movement.”
The synovial fluid transports nutrition to the cartilage.
“If the synovial fluid is not adequate, the nourishment of the cartilage is affected, and it starts breaking down. This can also result in arthritis,” says Dr Raghu Nagraj, director – orthopaedics, Fortis Hospital, Cunningham Road, Bangalore.
Role of exercise in joint lubrication
Adequate lubrication ensures pain free movement of the joint. Both exercise and maintaining a healthy BMI help achieve this.
“Exercising and moving the joints optimises the production and distribution of synovial fluid in the joints,” explains Dr Chouka.
“Moderate quantity of exercise maintains the muscle strength which reduces the load on the cartilage of the joints and reduces its breakdown preventing joint damage. Regular exercises like walking or cycling activity, will strain the joints to a certain extent. Moderate exercising has positive effects on a joint, because under strain, they act more and the production of the synovial fluid in all the different joints is also enhanced, helping to maintain a healthy joint,” adds Dr Nagraj.
BMI and joint health
A sedentary lifestyle and consuming junk food affects joint health.
“Obesity does affect joint health. With a high BMI, the quality of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons will be poor, so they cannot support the joints properly,” says Dr Nagraj.
“The pressure on the joints increases, resulting in pain and reduced physical activity. This will result in degeneration of the cartilage. The fat cells in the adipose tissue produce cytokines which increases inflammation. This affects joint lubrication and joint health,” adds Dr Chouka.
Importance of hydration in joint health
With water being one of the major components of synovial fluid, proper hydration ensures the body has sufficient water to produce it.
“Good hydration increases the blood flow to the synovial membrane, which gets nourished and in turn produces the synovial fluids,” says Dr Nagraj.
Dr Chouka elaborates: “Hydration reduces the wear and tear of the joint, thus increasing the longevity of the joint. Hydration also facilitates the transportation of nutrients and oxygen to the joint cartilage cells.”
Foods for better joint lubrication
Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, and those which have antioxidant properties are very beneficial for joint lubrication.
“Fishes like sardines and salmons are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It helps in reducing the inflammation and aids in lubrication of the joint,” says Dr Chouka.
Berries – blueberries, raspberries, strawberries – leafy vegetables such as spinach, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds enhance joint health.
“Turmeric with its anti-inflammatory properties, and the vitamin-C rich citrus fruits can be consumed as well. Dairy products are also beneficial,” he adds.
Supplements for lubrication
As joint lubrication is essential to be able to do daily activities pain free, sometimes supplements are prescribed by medical practitioners for a specific period.
“The supplements increase the nourishment of the articular cartilage and prevent further damage. But they should be taken under medical prescription,” says Dr Nagraj.
“While it can be safe to take the supplements, very few people have felt side-effects such as nausea, headache and gastritis,” adds Dr Chouka.
- Joint lubrication is a process in which the synovial fluid produced by the synovial membrane of the joint coats the cartilage and ends of the bones to facilitate pain free and smooth joint movements.
- Regular moderate exercises, maintaining a healthy BMI, proper hydration, and intake of nutritious food ensure good joint lubrication and joint health.