Acknowledging the Sneaky Things: A Lesson on the Knee Joint

The body has many sly little processes that it carries out everyday — processes that are crucial to our health, but they don’t draw a lot of attention to themselves. We probably don’t even know they’re happening! To give an example, I’ll share a little knee anatomy lesson from a class I had last semester. Hopefully it might help you to question what silent things could be going on in your body right now, and to better understand the importance of these sneaky, highly specific processes that take place in your body every day!

 

The knee joint is, of course, a very mobile joint. Specifically, it’s a ‘synovial joint’: a type of freely moveable joint contained inside a ‘joint capsule.’ Inside the knee capsule, there are two key components: menisci, and synovial fluid.

 

 

1) You’ve probably heard of the menisci before — these are essentially two pads of cartilage that provide cushioning between your femur (thigh bone) and your tibia (weight-bearing bone in your lower leg). They’re impressive shock absorbers (obviously essential while walking, running, jumping, etc).

 

2) Synovial fluid is a thick fluid with a couple of jobs. It a) lubricates the joint and b) provides nourishment to keep the menisci healthy so they can continue to be the wonderful shock absorbers that they are.

 

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Now that we know the components, here’s the cool part.
When there’s no pressure on the joint, the knee takes a break to replenish itself. The menisci act like sponges, sucking up the synovial fluid for nourishment. But when the joint is forced to take on some stress (like when we stand up), these ‘sponges’ release the synovial fluid into the joint cavity so it can act as a lubricant, rather than a nourishing agent. In the absence of lubrication, there’s friction. Not something we want!

 

Let’s put this into some context. Imagine jumping those well-nourished, but non-lubricated knee joints out of bed and straight into a hard workout. Ouchies! Warming up before a workout gives your knee joint some time to get that fluid moving again so it can properly lubricate the joint. Of course, we don’t see that, and we don’t immediately feel it, so, like so many other processes in our bodies, it’s easy to ignore.

 

 

Challenge: Be kind to your body! Work with it, not against it. Do yourself a favour and do your warm up drills! 

 

Yes, there’s value in having the mental strength to carry out a challenging workout… but there’s equal (or more) value in having the mental strength to back off of a workout/training plan when you know it’s best for your body.