The musculoskeletal system is an intricate, fascinating structure that supports, stabilizes, and moves the body. Without it, mankind would not exist. Or, in the off chance it was possible to live without muscles and bones, human beings would probably be soft blobs of skin and organs susceptible to damage and injury. Fortunately, this is not our fate.
The musculoskeletal system may be rigid, but it allows the body to move thanks in part to joints, which are articulations that hold bones together. Because the musculoskeletal system is so complex, it requires exceptional care from those who put it to use. In other words, it’s up to us to keep our bones and muscles healthy.
In an effort to accomplish this goal, many people take it upon themselves to do bone-healthy things such as drink milk, take vitamin D supplements, or exercise. Although these efforts are undoubtedly beneficial for a person’s overall health, are they really the key to keeping bones strong and in good shape?
Before we analyze popular myths, mysteries, and misconceptions about bone health, it’s crucial people understand what makes up bones.
What Are Bones Made Of?
Bones are made mostly of collagen, a protein, and calcium phosphate, a mineral. Because bones are technically living, growing tissues, they need blood, oxygen, and other nutrients to survive. If bones are depleted of these nutrients, they are at risk of becoming weak and brittle, which can lead to serious damage. Fortunately, there are several things that can be done to maintain the structure and function of bones.
In this series of Myths, Mysteries, and Misconceptions with Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists, our team debunks some of the most common fallacies about bone health.
This question comes up frequently and it may be due to the Got Milk? marketing campaigns that were popular in the mid-1990s and early 2000s. It’s true that milk is an excellent source of calcium, which is important for strong bones, but there are many other foods capable of keeping bones durable too. Dark, leafy vegetables, soybeans, and calcium supplements aid bone health. Vitamin D is a valuable supplement that helps the body absorb calcium, making it critical for people at risk of developing osteoporosis. When combined with a proper exercise regimen, milk and other food items can help keep bones strong.
Here’s an interesting fact: people who consistently drink soda, primarily cola, may be at an increased risk of developing bone fractures according to researchers from Tufts University who found a link between drinking cola and osteoporosis. According to the research team, women who regularly drank cola-based sodas three or more times a day had 4% lower bone density in the hip than those who didn’t not drink soda. We explain why this might occur: cola contains large amounts of phosphoric acid, which inadvertently increases the amount of phosphate in the blood. This process ultimately increases the secretion of calcium from the body, which deteriorates bones. The bottom line? Cola may weaken the skeletal system. So, be sure to drink cola in moderation or opt for calcium-fortified beverages like milk and orange juice instead.
Have you ever wondered why hitting your funny bone hurts so badly? Wonder no more, because we have the answer! When you hit the funny bone, you actually hit a nerve, called the ulnar nerve, which runs from your neck down to your hand. Cool, huh? What's not so cool is the shock-like pain it causes. The ulnar nerve runs directly under the bumpy bone (medial epicondyle) that makes up the elbow, and because it is so close to the surface of the skin, it can cause intense pain when struck.
Like most people, you've probably cracked your knuckles, joints, and toes more than a few times in your life. Just because most people do it, however, doesn't mean it's safe. Luckily, we're here to address the myth that cracking or popping your knuckles can lead to degenerative conditions like arthritis or mallet finger. Although the exact cause is not widely known, researchers believe the cracking or popping sound that comes from knuckles could be from pressure shifting fluid temporarily in the joint. Fortunately, there is little evidence to support the idea that cracking your knuckles and joints is harmful or that it leads to arthritis. However, many physicians, like the orthopedic surgeons at Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists, recommend refraining from purposely cracking your joints.
Admit it. As a child, you thought it was pretty cool seeing your knee react to your doctor's reflex hammer, which is that medical instrument with the pink rubber end. Of course, the knee-jerk reflex is undoubtedly fascinating; but why do we do it? When that little rubber mallet hits the knee, it activates motor sensory nerves within the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the shinbone. Once the patellar tendon has been hit, a signal is sent through the spine, never reaching the brain, and back down again. Because our brains don't get the chance to process this "trauma," our knee moves without us even thinking about it.
The Internet is a great resource for medical information, but given the amount of information available, it is easy for a concept to be blown out of proportion. Moreover, it’s important that questions be answered by credible people, like the highly trained physicians at Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists.
If you have a question about your orthopedic health, it’s best to ask an expert at the practice. Call one of our locations today to schedule an appointment with a physician. We will thoroughly evaluate your condition and determine the best form of treatment. Whether it is medication and physical therapy, or injections and minimally invasive surgery, the team at Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists can make sure you receive the highest standard of care.
Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists is located in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona and have convenient onsite services including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and imaging. For more information, make an appointment by calling the Scottsdale office at 602-493-9361 or the Phoenix office at 602-863-2040
The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.