instability jointsMost of the conversation about joint health is focused on arthritis, and that’s appropriate.

But it also means that joint instability doesn’t get much attention – and that’s not appropriate.

Because joint instability can be painful and difficult to live with in its own right.

And surprisingly, joint instability can lead to arthritis.

Instead of complaining about the lack of information about joint instability, we’re going to talk about it. Let’s look at joint instability, why it’s a problem, and what you can do to keep your joints healthy.

What IS Joint Instability?

In order to understand joint instability, you have to understand how a joint works. Every joint in your body is made up of the same components: bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and some would say the muscles surrounding all of those.

When your joints are healthy, all of those components are healthy, too. However, a healthy joint needs the support of all of its parts in order to stay healthy and stable.

So, once that support is weakened, for whatever reason, the joint becomes unstable, and guess what happens then - you end up with joint instability.

What Might Cause Joint Instability…

And why is this bad?

One of the leading causes of joint instability is injury. So many components make up a healthy joint but any one of them is subject to injury, which would destabilize the entire unit.

Another leading cause of joint instability is overuse. The kind that comes from a repetitive motion – or that comes from living a long, active life. Which means anyone “of a certain age” is susceptible to joint instability.

Be on the lookout for these symptoms:

  • Discomfort or pain
  • A feeling of looseness in the joint
  • A feeling of “sloppiness” or like the joint is about to give way

Any of these can indicate an onset of instability. Even if you don’t remember injuring yourself, you might have. Or, the joint may just be aging.

The key is to not disregard these symptoms, just because you don’t think it’s arthritis or an injury. It doesn’t have to be – but joint instability can lead to injury and/or arthritis.

So it’s important to deal with it, instead of just soldier through it, or minimize it.

Treatments for Joint Instability

So now that you know what joint instability is, what are you supposed to do about it?

There are two sets of treatments: if you have joint instability and want to treat it or if you want to avoid ever dealing with joint instability. This second course of treatment works if you’ve recovered from joint instability and want to stay healthy, too!

Reactive treatments – These are the steps you should take once you suspect unstable joints.

1. Your first step if you suspect joint instability is to see a doctor. He’ll be able to help diagnose where the problem is and which component is weakened. It doesn’t do you much good to be treating a muscle strain when it’s a pulled ligament.

2. Don’t be surprised if your doctor recommends physical therapy. Most cases of joint instability can be treated non-surgically! A physical therapist can help you recover from the injury or trauma.

3. Exercise, as prescribed. Depending on how damaged the component causing your joint instability is, you may be given exercises, or you may be told to rest between physical therapy appointments. Whichever one you’re supposed to do, be sure to do it. Following your health care provider’s advice is essential to recovering from existing joint instability.

Proactive treatments – these are the steps you can take to maintain joint health and prevent joint instability.

1. Protect against falls. Since joint instability is often caused by injuries, do what you can to avoid injuring yourself. It seems like common sense, but many people forget they can be proactive about not getting hurt.

2. Perform strength training exercises. These aren’t the exercises that will bulk you up or even give you tight abs. They are, however, the exercises that will keep the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your joints healthy so your joints stay stable. Each joint has different exercises, but you can check with your doctor about which ones would serve you best.

3. Avoid repetitive motions whenever possible. Change it up every now and then. Or stretch out the joints you’re using most often if your job or favorite hobby include repetitive motions.

Joint instability sounds horrible – and it doesn’t feel great, let’s be honest. But you don’t have to live with it, and you don’t have to experience it.

Instead, take care of your joints, and they’ll take care of you!