Unlock Your Body’s Potential: A Guide to your Joints and What They Should be Doing

Dealing with injuries can be a frustrating and sometimes painful experience for anyone trying to maximize their body’s potential, whether it’s to lose weight, gain muscle, get stronger, move better, become more athletic, or minimize pain and injury. To achieve these goals, it’s essential to understand how the body works and what various systems are trying to accomplish. With this article, I aim to provide you with a better understanding of your body and how it works, enabling you to deal with simple ailments such as arthritis, tendonitis, joint pain, low back pain, chronic muscle cramping and spasms, plantar fasciitis, and fibromyalgia.

Joints are an integral part of the human body, providing the necessary support and movement required for day-to-day activities. Joints can be classified into two categories: mobile or stable. While each joint has aspects of both, typically one wants to either be more stable in nature or more mobile. The distinction between mobile and stable joints is critical in understanding the function and structure of the human body. It is also necessary to fully unlock the body’s potential no matter what the goal, whether someone is trying to lose weight, get stronger, move better, alleviate pain, or become more athletic.

Mobile joints allow for a wide range of movement in multiple directions. Examples of mobile joints include the toes, ankles, hips, thoracic spine, glenohumeral joint, (shoulder), wrist, and fingers. These joints, while also having aspects of stability (the hips and the gluteus medius are a great example of this), again, mainly provide mobility to the body while the attached joints provide more stability. 

Stable joints, on the other hand, provide support to the body and are designed to resist unwanted movement. These  joints include the foot, knee, and lumbar spine, scapula (shoulder blade), elbow, hand, and neck. These joints have limited movement, as they are designed to provide a stable base for the rest of the body. It is important to remember that all of these joints have an aspect of mobility, even though we say they are limited. For example, the scapula can move a bunch of different directions, but its movement pales in comparison to its neighbor, the glenohumeral joint. 

Why is all this important? If we’re looking at it from a pain or injury perspective, we always want to look at the area in question, and then the joints that attach on either side of it. For example, we have pain in our left knee. The knee wants to be stable. We also know the joints on either side are the hip and the ankle – they want to be mobile. With knee pain, we need to assess stability of the knee, as well as mobility of the hip and ankle. If any of these, or multiple, are lacking, then we have a place to start! Low back pain? Is the lumbar spine stable through the core? Are the hips mobile? What about the thoracic spine? For professionals, like us at MadLab (shameless, shameless plug!), the process of assessing and correcting these issues with the right evaluation and exercise prescription is second nature. For the fitness/health/anatomy layman, it can be a little more complicated and many times woefully intimidating! Fortunately there are many resources available online, a few of which I will list at the end of this article. This obviously does not work for all instances of pain and injury, but it covers the easiest answers and methods, and honestly improves or fixes most issues! For more information check out the resources below or email me your questions at dan@madlabperformance.com

These resources are just examples of ways you can start looking at how the body works and moves. They by no means cover everything at 100% or don’t come with their own flaws. They will give you a solid groundwork in the subject though!

  1. Squat University
  2. Dr. John Rusin
  3. Functional Movement Screen
  4. Eric Cressey
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