As we age, our joints change. They can grow stiff, causing us to experience aches and weakness that makes it difficult and painful to move around in ways that we once did. As you age, you will notice several visible and invisible changes.
Changes in Height
One visible change that you will notice is a loss in height. Bones, especially the vertebra in the spine, lose calcium and minerals over time. The bones become thinner, causing the spine to lose some of its length. The arches in your feet can also flatten out.
Pain in Knees and Hips
Over time, our hips and knees begin to lose the cartilage and fluid that cushions them where the bones meet within them. This can cause severe pain and weakness, which limits your ability to move around normally.
Loss of Muscle
Our muscles can also tend to atrophy over time. As they shrink and lose mass, it takes them longer to respond when you want to move. This also contributes to overall weakness and stiffness as the muscles that were supporting your joints will lose their mass. Having less available muscle mass also makes it easier to fall, and less mineral mass in the bones makes bones break easier. This combination can cause severe issues, as falls are more likely and cause more damage as we age.
Common Reasons for Knee Pain with Aging
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 32 million Americans. As the cartilage in your joints wears away over time, this can lead to chronic inflammation in the joints. The Framingham Osteoarthritis Study looked at 1420 people who were 60 years of age and older. The study found that osteoarthritis became more common over time throughout the population. 33% of the people aged 60-70 suffered from osteoarthritis, and 43.7% of people 80 years or older reported cases of osteoarthritis. Since osteoarthritis is so common among older populations, that also means that pain occurs more frequently. If you are interested in learning more about osteoarthritis, you can do so here.
Post-Traumatic Arthritis (PTA)
Old injuries can turn in to PTA several years after the initial injury. PTA is a form of osteoarthritis that comes after a physical injury to the joint. The injury could have damaged the cartilage or the bone and impacted the mechanics of the joint. Even if surgery or other forms of therapies repaired the damage, it still did happen and the joint cannot have been fully restored to its condition prior to the injury.
Symptoms of PTA include joint pain, swelling, fluid accumulation in the joint, pain while moving, joint instability, deformity, bone spurs, or lumps in the joint. People suffering from PTA may present a combination of these symptoms, or all of them at once.
Muscles typically shrink 40% between the ages of 20 and 60 years old. This results in a significant loss of strength. Hip and leg muscles typically incur pressure from the legs that occur during walking and every day movements. Weakness in the muscles means a loss of support in the joints, leading to development of increased knee pain.
How to Protect Your Joints and Relieve Pain as You Age
Shed Excess Weight
Excess weight makes it much more likely for a patient to develop osteoarthritis. Studies show that it also increases the likelihood for developing Rheumatoid Arthritis. Losing even 5 to 10 pounds can provide both immediate and long-term health benefits. Losing just one pound of body weight relieves up to four pounds of pressure from the knees. This means that losing even 10 pounds would relieve 40 pounds of pressure from the knees.
Exercise offers one of the biggest benefits for your joints. Frequent exercise can help you lose weight, and it can help to protect your joints by building up the muscles that support them.
To best improve your joint health with exercise, physicians recommend:
- Aerobic exercises like walking or swimming
- Strengthening exercises, such as weight lifting, to build up supporting joint muscles and increase your bone density
- Flexibility exercises, such as stretching, to improve your range of motion
- Balancing exercises, such as yoga or tai chi, to help prevent falls
Wear Sensible Shoes
Shoes that do not offer support, or that put extra strain on your joints, can contribute to a variety of joint problems. Especially if you stand on your feet all day, it is important to get fitted for shoes with good support and stability.
It is also vital to avoid high heels whenever possible. According to the Arthritis Foundation, high heels put excess strain on the inside of your knees, which can lead to accelerated development of osteoarthritis. Wearing the wrong shoes can also cause back pain.
It is important to maintain a healthy diet in order to promote a healthy weight and give your body the nutrients that it needs. Foods that are rich in Calcium, Vitamin D, and protein can help build strong bones and muscles.
Calcium helps your body to build strong bones. Calcium can be found commonly in milk and dairy products, but there are also many other sources of calcium. Foods such as dried figs, white beans. sardines, kale, and almonds are extremely rich in Calcium.
In order for your body to absorb Calcium and reap all of the benefits it provides, you must also have Vitamin D. Vitamin D can be absorbed through sunlight, supplements, or foods, such as wild caught salmon, mackerel, and tuna. Additionally, consuming milk and dairy products that are fortified with Vitamin D can help you get enough Vitamin D.
Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, and cartilage. Luckily, most Americans get plenty of protein in their normal diet. Protein can be consumed in a variety of sources, such as lean meats, beans, seafoods, and nuts. It is important to avoid saturated fats, which often are a part of protein rich foods, as they can increase inflammation and worsen joint pain.
Natural supplements can be very effective in reducing the symptoms often found in older joints. You can use glucosamine in conjunction with chondroitin to aid the rebuilding of lost cartilage. Omega 3 fatty acids, which can be found in salmon and mackerel, also can help to reduce inflammation.
Applying ice or a cool gel pack to sore joints can numb pain and relieve swelling. Never apply ice directly to skin, and limit its application to 20 minutes at a time. Ice is typically more effective in treating older joints. Heat is often not used in appropriate moderation, and leaving it on too long can actually exacerbate inflammation.
Hands on Help
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting ultra thin needs into key places in the body, and it can help to relieve pain and stiffness. Acupuncture should only be done by trained professionals. The results of acupuncture for treating joint symptoms may be a surprise to many. Patients in a study in Germany reported reduced pain and stiffness, as well as increased function compared to those who didn’t receive acupuncture.
Massage can ease the pain of soft tissue strains and injuries, promote deep relaxation, and even improve anxiety and depression. Patients who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis can also benefit from massage therapy.
Physical therapists specialize in helping people improve strength and function, especially after an illness or injury.
Seek the Experts
Whether you are trying to prevent joint problems from occurring, or looking to treat your joint pain, Flexogenix® is here to help. Our Kineti-Flex® coaches offer personalized conditioning programs, designed to strengthen your muscles, increase mobility, and prevent further degradation of the knee joint.
If you are already suffering from osteoarthritis or knee pain, our Knee-Flex 5-Step Protocol is designed to lubricate your knee joints, provide better mobility, and long term results, to get you back to the lifestyle that you deserve.
We would love to offer you a no-cost consultation to evaluate your case and give you a personalized plan to relieve your pain and improve your life. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation and let us get you back to doing what you love!