Is Movement Really Medicine?

Is Movement Really Medicine?

Is Movement Really Medicine?

"Motion is lotion" or "movement is medicine". There are lots of great sayings and probably an equal amount of sayings, if not more, that are literally rubbish. So let's dive in to take a deeper look if it really is so, that movement is medicine.

After an injury or a surgery, it might feel better to stay on your sofa watching movies rather than getting up and exercising. But what's best for your body? Let's unpack these sayings. There are two aspects I like to highlight in this blog post. The first one is regarding our joints and the second one I will explore scar tissue.

Of course, movement offers great benefits for our body as a whole, at least when we are well. All of our body's systems like the cardiovascular system, the muscular system, the lymphatic system and the elimination system are being optimised through regular exercise. In times when we are in recovery from surgery or after an injury, is movement still medicinal then? Let's dive in.

Moving Our Joints

Where two or more bones meet, they connect, these areas a called joints. Joints are what make us able to move our limbs and our spine. When we walk we use our ankle joint, knee joint and hip joint (and more). When we lift our arms we use our shoulder joint. We have different kinds of joints, some are fixed and won't move at all (these immovable joints are mainly found in the skull). Other joints move very little (an example of this is the well-known sacroiliac joint also called the SI joint. The SI joint connects the sacrum, the triangular bone at the base of the spine, to the ilium, the large bone of the pelvis that looks like two big elephant ears). Other joints move a lot, these are the most common type of joint in our body and are called synovial joints. Synovial joints are characterized by their free movement. An example of a synovial joint is our knee joint (also called the tibiofemoral joint as it connects the femur, the thigh bone, to the tibia, the shin bone. In addition, the knee joint also comprises the patellofemoral joint, connecting the patelle with the femur). These two joints ensure we can flex, extend and rotate our knee so that we can walk, jump and run (of course other joints play a role in this movement too).

Okay, we are getting there, I just want you to keep in mind as well that we have vascular tissue and avascular tissue. Vascular tissues are characterised by the presence of blood vessels. Vascular tissues are blood, blood vessels, bone, organs and muscle. These tissues receive nourishment via the blood. Blood circulation also helps this type of tissue to clear out the damaged tissue.

We also have avascular tissue. Avascular tissue lacks blood vessels. This type of tissue relies on diffusion from nearby blood vessels for its oxygen and nutrient supply. Now we get to the point: 

Joints consist of avascular tissue like cartilage, ligaments, tendons, meniscus and synovial fluid. Diffusion happens when we move and exercise. Exercise and movement are important because our joints (and avascular tissues) don't have a heart pumping fresh blood around, so we need movement to squeeze and soak for our joints to remain healthy.

So to keep our joints healthy, and efficient and to ensure that we maintain our basic range of motion so that we can lift our arms, bend our knees, look left and right and move our spine (our spine is one long connection of bones and therefore joints) and hips, movement is essential. 

On a side note, healthy and mindful movement, strength training and stretching help to support muscle mass and flexibility. So when we are back after an injury, we are less likely to hurt ourselves again, as we maintain some strength and flexibility. 

Another aspect of healing is scar tissue. I want to take you into another fascinating part of our body.

Scar tissue:

When we hurt or damage our tissue, our body quickly creates a "scab" with a type of collagen called type 3 collagen. Type 3 collagen acts like a thin scab on a wound on your skin. Your thin scab is delicate, and so is type 3 collagen. To make type 3 collagen strong and turn it into the stronger type 1 collagen, you need movement, this process is called collagen remodelling. This process is much like kneading a dough. if you have flour and water, and just put them together, you won't get dough, but when you begin to stir and knead, you get dough. Back to the body and a real case scenario: 

You hurt your ligament in your knee on a walk and you come home and sit on the sofa. Your body begins to heal with type 3 collagen, like when you mix water and flour, you won't get dough or bread. Type 3 collagen is our water and flour, to get dough or type 1 collagen, we need to move our body.

Further, the movement also helps the scar tissue fibres to organise themselves and realign in such a way that it makes them more effective for movement and living. Now, imagine you have a hole in your shirt, you take it to a tailor to get it fixed, the tailor fixes the whole quickly by just crisscrossing thread everywhere, now there isn't a hole, but a rather lumpy area instead on your shirt, it might even scratch, irritate and it won't stretch like the rest of your t-shirt, let alone move like the rest of the shirt material. It is tight and uneven. Next time you get a hole, you go to another tailor. This tailor carefully treats the hole with a patch and sow it in a way that is similar to the rest of the material. Now it moves more or less like the original tissue, it will not be perfect, but it will be pretty good. In the same way, if you just let your knee heal while you sit in a chair, you get lumpy and disorganised scar tissue. To heal in a way that's functional, you need to move. 


So, yes, movement is medicine. Movement lubricates joints, as well as keeping the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding those joints healthy and strong. Mindful movement is a part of creating healthy and useable scar tissue. Movement of course is so much more than that: great for your posture, your mind, your mood, your well-being and the list goes on and on.

It truly is: If you don't use it, you lose it. It being your body. 

How much movement? What movement? And when do move? Check-in with your physician after an injury to know when to rest and when to move. It of course a balance between rest and different kinds of movement


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