Did you know, that your bones don’t actually touch? They touch by proxy and are held in a connective matrix of soft tissue. In anatomy, soft tissues include things like tendons, ligaments, fascia, synovial membranes, muscles, nerves, fat, blood vessels and more. So if the bones are not fused together, then what keeps us upright? An elasticity and tone of the soft tissues holds our body structure cohesively. This soft tissue creates pressure to maintain the bony structure so we don't all look like Jabba the hut.
Now there is a hierarchy here. The muscles are the power houses that hold us together, they are elastic in nature and they are highly vascularized. Which means they have a rich blood supply and can heal themselves in most cases. The ligaments are connective tissue that wrap and hold bones to other bones. They are a lesser support system, they have very little elasticity and do not have a rich blood supply. They cannot heal themselves and once they are overstretched that inherent elasticity will never come back. The ligaments are meant to be the fail safe for the joints, not the major players in holding the structure together. That is the job of your muscles.
So let's build on this idea. There are more optimal ways to float the bones over each other. The meeting points of the bones, the joints, work best when they are stacked well with some equanimity around the joint. Think about the walls of a house. The inside space is held by the integrity of the walls. Now imagine one of the walls being forced out to one side. That one side that is buckling is compromising the integrity of the entire structure.
Okay now we can talk about your knees and your elbows and joints in general. But let's start with knees. For myriad reasons, many folks have overstretched the ligaments around their joints by not maintaining healthy muscle tone and an effective body stance/structure. This can come from overdoing exercise, bad posture, repeating extreme range of motion, etc. Now if the muscles have lost tone and the ligaments are permanently overstretched, then your “floating” bones are now collapsing in on each other. The inside space of the house is smashed. No Bueno. Compression causes degeneration and pain.
When we hyperextend our knees or elbows, or have the possibility of this range of motion beyond normal, we encourage joint laxity. We overstretch the ligaments on the back wall of our knee, as well as over utilize some muscle groups while others just sleep passively. Joint laxity results in degeneration of joint health and supports active imbalance of the muscles around the joint. Making some muscles weak by consistent over stretching and some weak by extreme tightness. Muscles at their prime are supple and meaty and can stretch and contract. Ligaments at their prime are taught with some give and protective all the way around the joint.
A fully extended knee or elbow joint is not the same as a hyperextended knee or elbow. Hyperextension is a detour that wrecks havoc. When we add more pressure to Hyperextension, like Warrior 3 or Handstand we increase the risk for further damage. Joint health is maintained by balanced muscles tone around the joint and optimal stacking of the bones. You cannot reverse joint laxity in the ligaments. You CAN create healthy muscle tone and learn how to stack your bones, which will improve joint space and use.
So look down, turn your feet forward and “unlock” your knees. Stack your thigh bones directly over your low leg bones. This is just a beginning, as always, there is more. Come to class and we can practice this idea.