As we get older, many of us experience stiff, sore joints which we accept as part of the ageing process, but it this normal or is there something we're doing (or not doing) that's causing our 'age related' joint stiffness? The answer is yes to both.
Joints are complex structures consisting of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and other tissues. As you age, ligaments and tendons can shorten and lose flexibility, making you feel stiff. Being inactive or less active than you were a decade or two ago causes the cartilage that cushions your joints to shrink and stiffen. Osteoarthritis, the 'wear and tear' joint condition also causes the cartilage to become thinner or wear away. And there's also a natural decrease in the lubricating (synovial) fluid inside joints. PlusPlus, when you get into bed and sleep for several hours the amount of fluid in your joints is naturally reduced. Which explains that stiff joint feeling when you wake up or the joint tenderness you feel the day after an unexpected burst of exercise like running to catch a plane or playing with young children.
So, while some of the causes for joint pain after middle age is due to injuries or over-use in our younger years, others can be directly related to our lifestyle.
Here are three common and easily resolved causes for joint pain in stiffness:
You've heard that saying 'use it or lose it' and this really does apply to your joints and muscles. A lack of exercise and regular movement is one of the most common causes for age-related joint changes. While it might be the last thing you want to do when you're stiff and sore, using your joints and muscles regularly helps keep the joint fluid moving and the tendons and ligaments supple and strong.
One of the best ways to keep joints moving is to stretch regularly. Stretching improves the flexibility of the supporting ligaments. And you don't necessarily need to join an exercise class. Stretching anywhere, at home, while watching TV, when you wake up in the morning or while cooking all helps.
Weight gain is common in men and women over the age of 50 due to changes in our hormone levels as well as reduced activity levels. Aside from putting strain on all our joints and spine, it also heightens the risk of heart disease and diabetes. A healthy diet and cardiovascular exercise (something like a brisk walk for 30 - 60 minutes a day) will help you maintain a healthy weight and protect your heart.
Incidentally, if back pain is your bugbear, choose running or jogging, or if you prefer something less jarring, using a stair machine or doing pilates, to strengthen your core muscles (the stomach, back, rear and thigh muscles). Having a strong core is key to easing back pain as these muscles are the only group that share the spine's load in supporting the upper body on your pelvis.
Include strength training: We understand, you're probably thinking 'surely working with weights would exacerbate joint pain', but the opposite is true. Strength training - done correctly - is actually excellent for easing joint pain as it strengthens the muscles that cross and stabilise your joints.
Did you know what you eat (or don't eat) can also create or worsen joint pain? A diet high in acid forming foods like meat, dairy products, processed foods, refined grains and sugar creates a high acid load in the body. Acidity is one of the causes of inflammation in the body, which can lead to sore, stiff joints or worsen conditions like arthritis and osteoarthritis. Not eating enough vegetables daily can also leave us deficient in vital minerals like magnesium and potassium.
A magnesium deficiency is linked to joint pain and stiffness. A mineral that plays an important role in many body functions, including the normal functioning of muscles and nerves, magnesium is found in leafy greens and nuts. Many of us simply don't get enough magnesium in our diets, which is risky for women especially because magnesium is necessary to ensure calcium absorption. Low magnesium levels can impact the functioning of your skeletal muscles, including back and neck pain and headaches. People with osteoarthritis often have low magnesium levels and can be at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Potassium is an electrolyte that helps reduce muscular pain, helps with detoxification and fighting inflammation by bringing water and nutrients into the body's cells. Low levels of potassium can cause muscle aches, joint pain and swelling. And again, many of us don't get enough potassium daily because we don't eat enough foods like leafy greens, bananas, sweet potatoes and avocadoes
This is where an alkaline mineral supplement like Multiforce® can help. It provides the body with a daily dose of magnesium and potassium as well as calcium (which is necessary for bone health especially in people over 50). It also helps to offset excess acidity in the body, thus helping to lower inflammation levels throughout the body. The less inflammation in a joint, the less pain and stiffness.
A good Omega 3 supplement can also help ease joint pain and stiffness. Due to modern food production processes, our diets are way too high in proinflammatory Omega-6's and very low in anti-inflammatory Omega-3s. Inflammation causes many lifestyle diseases, including arthritis and joint pain.
Last but not least, drinking lots of still, filtered water daily is extremely important to joint and muscle function. Always aim to get around 1,5 litres - 2 litres per day.
By adopting these simple healthy lifestyle habits to keep your joints flexible, protected and supple you'll live well and pain free for longer. Remember, you don't get stiff because you're old, you get old because you're stiff!