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How Much “Wiggle” is in Your Joints?

Joint mobility is the amount of movement that occurs within a single joint. This is not just how high you can raise your arm or how far you can bend your knee, it also is how much or how little “wiggle” there is within a joint. This “wiggle” is known as mild, moderate, or severe, hypermobility (excessive movement) or hypomobility (limitation of movement, stiffness).

How does having too little joint mobility (hypomobility, or stiffness) affect someone?

Limitations in joint mobility will often be seen alongside limitations in range of motion. Someone with hypomobility of their spine may not be able to rotate as far to the left or right or may not be able to bend through a normal range forwards or backwards. One of the biggest complaints we hear from patients dealing with joint stiffness is that they are having trouble going up or down stairs. Getting up and out of a chair is another daily activity, that is more difficult for someone who is experiencing joint stiffness and lack of mobility. Joint stiffness can also make moving after being in a position for a long time more difficult.

Decreased joint mobility or increased joint stiffness, can also result from other conditions. For example, arthritis occurs when there is decreased space between the joints, or due to thinning of cartilage around a bone. It could also be a decreased height of a meniscus, decreased disc space in your spine, or degeneration of your labrum of your hip or shoulder. When there is decreased joint space, and there’s not any of the cushioning, the bones get closer together, causing stiffness.

If a therapist assesses decreased joint mobility, then they can prescribe the appropriate joint mobilizations and stretches in order to address this issue and help the patient regain functional range of motion in order for them to perform their desired activity. Once increased movement is gained, then joint stability is also addressed. It is important for the patient to develop the muscle control and joint stability through this newly gained range of motion, in order to help prevent joint, muscle, and tendon irritation.

Physical therapy is an effective treatment method for joint stiffness. At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, we can determine the root cause of your joint stiffness and design an individualized plan of care to handle that cause. Our therapists will give you exercises and stretches tailored to improving your strength and range of motion. At LSTC we address joint stiffness with manual, hands-on treatment.Depending on your needs, this could involve some massages, modalities such as ice and heat, or moving joint in specific ways.

By: Rachel Herrmann, DPT and Devin Wurman, DPT

If you are dealing with joint stiffness or having trouble determining if your stiffness is something you need to worry about, call our office TODAY at 703-450-4300, to schedule your evaluation with one of our therapists!

For more information on basic stretches that can help with general joint stiffness, CLICK HERE.

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