27 February 2006


Forget about the ad you placed in the personal column for the double-jointed twins. Let’s take a look at your own for the moment.

Forget about the ad you placed in the personal column for the double-jointed twins. Let’s take a look at your own for the moment.

Wherever two bones meet in your body, you have a joint. Most of them can move, and function like pivots or hinges.

Some of them can move more than others – think of the difference in how far you can move your shoulders as opposed to the individual vertebrae in your back. The so-called hinge joints, such as the knees and the elbows basically move in one plane, unlike your shoulders and hips that are ball-and-socket joints. They can move in different directions. Try this with your knees, and you will be in very serious trouble very soon.

What do joints consist of?
Muscles, strong tendons and ligaments are all very important in making it possible for you to move in a stable fashion. Muscles hold the bones together, tendons connect the muscle to the bone and ligaments connect the bones to other bones. So all in all quite a complicated set of mechanisms that enable you to jump up to catch that ball, climb the ladder, or surprise your partner with some interesting bedroom moves.

Just think of hinges on doors – they need oiling. And so do your joints. Specialised membranes and fluids lubricate your joints and cushion the blow when you jump for joy when your team wins. Because joints are so complicated, they can get injured in many ways.

The bones ending in the joints can break (fractures), you can get a sprain, which usually means you’ve torn a ligament, injury or overuse can lead to tendonitistendonitis and ongoing pressure on a joint can lead to bursitis. Gout, a condition where uric acid crystallises in a joint, especially that of the big toe, is a particularly unpleasant condition affecting mostly men. Then you can also tear the cartilage or get arthritis, a painful condition involving most of the joints in the body. And contrary to popular belief, arthritis does not only affect older people.

There are two different types of arthritis, namely rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system disorder and osteoarthritis is the result of the breakdown in the cartilage between the bones.

The things you can do to protect your joints include keeping your weight down, getting regular exercise, not putting undue or sudden stress on your joints, wearing protective pads if you take part in contact sports and listening to your joints when they start giving out pain signals. Many sports professionals or dancers have joint problems later in life as a result of the incredible stress under which all that training puts the joints.

Interesting facts

  • There are over 100 different types of arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis occurs more often in women than in women. The average age of onset is around 40.
  • A bout of gout can be caused by alcoholic intake, as well as exposure to the cold.
  • The types of sport that most often result in knee injuries, are basketball, soccer and wrestling.
  • The knee joint can absorb an impact of seven times a person’s body weight.
  • Unlike knees and shoulders, hip joints are very seldom dislocated.


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