The human body has numerous joints that can become inflamed or stiff at any time in your life. We are all familiar with the hip, knee, elbow, shoulder, wrist, ankle, and finger joints. People with gout are exquisitely aware of their great toe. Let’s not forget the joints between the 26 vertebrae that make up the spine and are attached to the sacrum and coccyx (tail bone). Most of us, however, do not consider the sutures between our head and facial bones to be joints. Yet, they are because these bones shift all the time, when you eat, sneeze, blow your nose, yawn, make a grimace, or smile. Facial aches and pain, as well as headaches, are often really pain and stiffness of these pseudo joints. This was discovered by Dr. William Garner Sutherland almost 100 years ago.
Old and new injuries, joint degeneration, rheumatism, infections, overuse, and lack of exercise are major causes of joint pain and stiffness anywhere in the body, including the face and head.
Please see a doctor to rule out rheumatoid arthritis, advanced osteoarthritits, gout, fractures, and infections as they require medical attention as soon as possible.
Craniosacral Therapy and Energetic Unwinding of the Spine, Joints, and Muscles are two therapies particularly effective, while exceedingly gentle, in relieving the pain and stiffness, and restoring the function of the joints.
To appreciate how craniosacral therapy and energetic unwinding can promote joint health, let’s briefly look at the various joints in our body as well as the structures that surround these joints.
There are many joints of various size, shape and function in our body. The largest joints are the shoulder, elbow, knee and hip joints. Some of the smaller ones are the many joints in the hands and feet, as well as those between the vertebrae of the spine.
The ribs articulate (connect to) with the breast bone (sternum) in the front and the vertebrae in the back, while the collar bones (clavicles) connect with the sternum and the shoulderblades (scapulae) at the bony extension called acromion.
Costochondritis refers to the inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum, and may be caused by accidental trauma, physical strain, or during pregnancy as the expanding uterus pushes the inner organs upward into the thorax.
Loose sternocostal or costotransverse ligaments may let the ribs slip out of place near the sternum or the spine. This temporary condition is referred to as the “slipped rib syndrome” or Tietze’s Syndrome.
Ribs “go out” (subluxate) with trauma, physical strain, poor posture, sneezing, labored breathing, and so forth. Each rib connects with two vertebrae, and each vertebra connects (articulates) with two ribs. Thus a subluxation (partial displacement) of a rib may subluxate a vertebra, or two. Conversely, a displaced vertebra may displace a rib, or two.
We usually experience this as painful knots alongside the spine, and restriction in the movement of our rib cage.
Vertebrae may subluxate in the neck, thorax, or lumbar area. Causes are many, such as trauma, a sudden jar or movement, poor posture, poor sleeping surface (lumpy mattress, too soft a mattress), heavy lifting, improper lifting, obesity, the extra load on the spine during pregnancy, or weak spinal muscles.
Spondylolisthesis refers to the forward slippage of the vertebra in the lumbar area due to trauma, disc degeneration, or bone disease. Repetitive stress from whiplike motion to the spine such as in gymnastics, back flips, or snow boarding are common causes of trauma induced sponylolisthesis.
The sacroiliac joints are a major source of low back pain, making walking, bending, and sitting a “pain in the butt”.
The sacrum articulates with the hip bones at these joints. When walking, the sacrum rocks forward and backward and wiggles from side to side in a figure-eight type motion. Any inflammation or fascial (connective tissue) restriction of the sacroiliac joints results in discomfort, pain, stiffness, and decreased ability to walk freely, bend over, or sit comfortably.
Let’s not forget the fibrous joints of the skull (head and face), called sutures, that move until we take our last breath. These bones are frequently jammed by trauma, dental problems, as well as tension of the facial muscles, chewing muscles, and neck muscles. Even teeth articulate with the upper and lower jaw (maxilla and mandible) via joints.
Most of the joints that allow us to move our bones at will, including the facet joints of the vertebrae, are synovial joints.
Two bones are connected via a synovial joint capsule that contains synovial fluid for lubrication. Moreover, these bones are covered with cartilage to protect them from excess impact and friction, like shock absorbers in a car.
All joints are reinforced and stabilized by a variety of ligaments, as well as the tendons that attach muscles to the ends of the bones, crossing the joints.
Furthermore, the joints, as well as all other structures of the body down to the cellular level, are enveloped by fascia, a type of connective tissue that can vary from gel like soft to hard as bone. Ligaments and tendons are types of connective tissue as well. Even bone and blood are considered specialized connective tissue.
Osteoarthritis, rhematoid arthritis, gout, and viral or bacterial infections mostly affect the synovial joints, causing inflammation or destruction of the cartilage covering the ends of the bones and often leading to deformities in the hands, fingers, feet, and toes.
Bursitis is an inflammation of the synovial fluid filled sacs that protect the bones from friction by tendons and ligaments at the synovial joints.
However, all joints of the body are subject to trauma, wear and tear, poor posture, dehydration, and nutritional deficiencies. We are not only concerned with the actual joint but also with the ligaments, tendons, and the fascia.
Poor nutrition, dehydration, trauma, and chronic muscular tension twist, stretch, dry out, or change the consistency of the fascia resulting in restricted movement anywhere in the body, including the joints. Furthermore, lack of exercise leads to poor production of synovial fluid in the joints rendering the joints vulnerable to inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
We can do much on a daily basis to promote healthy joints by improving our dietary habits and posture, and incorporating daily gentle stretching to reduce muscle tension. Yoga, Tai Chi, and QiGong are wonderful exercises to tone and relax the body and soothe the mind.
Energetic unwinding of the spine, joints, and muscles (a combination of acupressure, craniosacral therapy, and soft tissue work) helps the body to release the restrictions in all types of connective tissue, especially the fascia, by incorporating gentle movement around the joints, thus helping to restore mobility and function to these joints.
Also see Homeopathic Remedies for joint pain.