Tag: pain

Flexibility vs. mobility

Flexibility vs. mobility – what’s in a word?

There are some words that are used without really understanding what they refer to. Flexibility and mobility are two examples of these. You may be forgiven for thinking that they are basically the same thing. However, it’s important to understand the difference between the two when it comes to our aims.

Flexibility is “the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to lengthen passively through a range of motion”.

Mobility is the “ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion”.

Your mobility is defined by other factors too, such as how far the joint itself can move within its joint capsule. The nervous system is also involved; determining the amount of motor control we have. For instance, your body may be trying to “protect” you by tightening certain muscles. This in turn limits the range of movement through the joints they attach to. However, stretching or foam rolling these tight areas may not be the answer! For example, people who can’t touch their toes often blame tight hamstrings. Yet working solely on stretching the hamstrings won’t bring a lasting effect.

What can I do to improve my flexibility?

If joint mobility is poor, then the muscles that attach won’t be able to have full flexibility, even if you loosen them! You will therefore need to encourage a good range of free movement throughout the joints. This is where the phrase active mobility comes in.

This simply involves… moving! Because they do not have a direct blood supply, joints rely on movement in order to stay healthy. Motion lubricates the joints, helping to refresh the synovial fluid within the joint capsule. Over time, this also helps them to move more easily. Joints that move in the way they are supposed to will help prevent discomfort. This in turn allows your body to move better, giving you a greater range of pain free movement in your everyday life.

So what can I do to mobilise my joints?

It is usually better to do “little and often” instead of doing one intense session. Some simple joint mobility exercises could include:

  • neck rolls
  • arm circles
  •  spinal twists
  • pelvic circles (think hula hoop!)
  • wrist and ankle rolls

Forms of gentle exercise such as Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates can also be beneficial.

What else could affect my mobility?

We do need to consider other things that may affect our ability to do these exercises. For example, if you have tendinitis, arthritis or joint restrictions elsewhere, you may not be able to take one specific joint through its full range of movement freely. This is where your chiropractor can help in identifying problem areas, giving manual adjustments or other treatment as needed.

Where do I start?

It is often a good idea to have an assessment before starting any new exercise routine. This will allow you to identify any misalignment or faulty movement. That way you can ensure that you are not straining or encouraging anything that could lead to further wear-and-tear later on. Again, your chiropractor can advise you on areas that may need to be looked at.

Once you have got a good range of mobility, you will often find that your flexibility will improve at the same time! The more you move, the more your body will allow you to move – and as the saying goes, “Use it or lose it!”


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Joint popping – is it cracking good fun or does it sound like trouble?

To crack or not to crack – that is the question!

Do you enjoy cracking your knuckles? If so, have you had people tell you that it will damage your joints?

Thankfully, research has shown that there is no link between arthritis and cracking your joints. So, do you know why joint cracking occurs? Or when you should see your doctor or chiropractor about it?

Where does that cracking noise come from?

The “cracking joint” noise can happen as tendons (that attach our muscles to our bones) slide over bony points. As movement pulls them back into place, this can cause them to make a “snap” as they contact the bone again. This is the noise that we sometimes hear when we “crack” a joint. Although it may seem like there is something wrong, generally it is harmless.

You may also have heard that bubbles of gas popping inside the joints themselves produces the “crack” noise. It is true that the noise is due to gas in the joints. But did you know that the latest research has shown it is actually the creation of these bubbles that makes the noise?

Joint anatomy

First, let’s take a look at a typical joint. They consist of 2 surfaces (ie bone) that have a capsule between them, which provides lubrication to the moving surfaces. It also acts like a shock absorber. A liquid called synovial (or joint) fluid fills this capsule. The fluid itself is made of hyaluronic acid, lubricin, proteinases and collagenases. It also contains oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide as gases which are dissolved in the joint fluid.

What creates the noise when joints crack?

In order to investigate joint cracking, scientists used real-time MRI to look at the joint capsule. When the joint surfaces move and separate slightly, gas bubbles form in the synovial fluid inside the joint capsule. By observing the MRI images, they could pinpoint what happened inside the joint at the exact moment that the noise occurred. They found that the gas pockets formed as the joint moved, remained visible after the noise. This proved that it was their formation that was responsible for the cracking sound.

The scientific name for this process is called tribonucleation. Solid surfaces that are surrounded by liquid containing dissolved gas (like joint fluid) can reach a certain point of separation as they move. At this point, they separate rapidly, which reduces the pressure in the liquid and causes bubbles of gas to form.

Before being able to crack the joint again, you need to wait for the gases to be reabsorbed into the joint fluid.

When are cracking joints a problem?

So, is this a cause for concern? Generally speaking, if you crack your joints and don’t experience pain, it is fine.

If you crack your joints and do experience pain, there could be a number of causes. These range from arthritis (damage to the cartilage covering the joint surface) to meniscus tears. Other injuries can cause swelling or issues with bone alignment which may cause certain joints to pop or click. In these cases it is usually best to check it out as your chiropractor can advise you on the cause of the issue. Exercises that strengthen surrounding muscles and provide more support to the joint can help.

So the next time you hear someone cracking their knuckles, remember that they may not be doing any damage to their joints – only to your ears! And if you enjoy cracking your joints and don’t feel any pain from doing so – crack away!


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Opening Times

Monday 08:30 – 19:00
Tuesday 09:00 – 19:00
Wednesday 09:00 – 19:00
Thursday 09:00 – 19:00
Friday 08:30 – 19:00
Saturday 09:00 – 12:00

Acorn Health Limited © 2014 - 2019

Website Created by WebHolism