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The Importance of Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) for Joint Health

Updated: Jun 18

Back in September of 2013, I attended a movement seminar where a German instructor made a remark that struck me: “The funny thing about you American coaches is that you're all very strong, but you can't sit on the floor comfortably.” 


He was right. I couldn’t sit on the floor comfortably; I never could. Even as a child, I hated school events in the gymnasium where we had to sit on the floor. My hips were tight, my neck and back would ache, and I often lost sensation in my legs, presumably from sitting on my sciatic nerve. This marked the beginning of my journey toward better mobility and joint health.


A few years later, I discovered Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs)—simple exercises that can be done daily to enhance one’s awareness of individual joints. Once I started practicing these, it became clear that many of my exercises were not targeting what I thought they were. The isolated nature of CARs not only highlighted my poor joint awareness but also revealed the limited mobility and health of each joint.


Understanding Joint Space


In a healthy skeleton, when all the muscles and connective tissue are removed, no two bones should be touching (with few exceptions, like the bones in your skull). A joint, the place where two bones meet, should be a space that allows each bone to move independently. Think of a door hinge: when you open the door, there's a space you can see through, but as you close the door, that space narrows until motion stops. More joint space means more range of motion.


Mechanoreceptors: The Joint's Sensors


Mechanoreceptors are tiny sensors in the joint that detect pressure, touch, and stretch, sending this information to the central nervous system. If the joint space closes quickly, these receptors activate and signal your body to stop moving to prevent injury. This protective mechanism is great but must be adapted if we want the joint to function with a greater range of motion.


The Need for Increased Joint Range of Motion


For the average American working 40 hours a week, increasing joint range of motion is generally beneficial. Most people have never focused on expanding their joint space, leading to its gradual reduction over time due to small traumas and gravity. This reduction in joint space means less room for synovial fluid (which provides nutrients and lubrication to the joint) and increased friction, potentially causing conditions like arthritis, bursitis, or tendonitis. However, it’s not always advantageous to increase joint space if it’s unnecessary for a particular sport or if restrictions exist due to an old injury.


The Importance of Isolated Movement


The first step in creating more joint space is becoming aware of how your joints move in isolation. This step is challenging because it’s not how humans naturally move. When you reach for a coffee cup, you don’t consciously think about the specific movements involved—you just grab the cup. Over time, certain joints move more or less during specific actions, leading to imbalances. If you don’t use certain ranges of motion, you will lose them, causing joints to become more restricted in all directions.


Creating More Joint Space with CARs


Controlled Articular Rotations are the most straightforward way to achieve full range of motion in joints. Performing a few CARs daily for each joint ensures that you are controlling the joint through its current fullest possible range of motion. Think of this as joint practice: by doing this every day, you maintain all that motion because your nervous system will remember it needs to do this again tomorrow. It’s really that simple.


How to Perform CARs


Explaining CARs in words is challenging, so check out our Instagram page @triadwellnessphilly or our YouTube Channel @stephencornely for instructional videos. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an evaluation of your joint health and mobility, feel free to email us at steve@triadwellnessphilly.com or schedule via our website at www.triadwellnessphilly.com.


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If you're struggling with joint pain, stiffness, or mobility issues, don’t wait. Schedule a no-sweat intro with Triad Wellness today and start your journey to better joint health.

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