We’ve been taught to believe that aches and pains are a part of getting older. But what if I told you the two are not inextricably linked? The latest studies do not show a direct relationship between pain and age. In fact, a National Center for Health Statistics report found that the highest prevalence of chronic pain peaks at age 65.
Population-based studies found a lower prevalence of lower back, neck, headache, and abdominal pain among older adults compared to younger adults. According to the Arthritis Foundation, of all adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, 64% are under the age of 64.
Greater risk factors than just age alone for arthritis are genetics, obesity, and prior injuries. There is no denying that as we age, muscle fibers become less dense, making them less flexible, but there are plenty of things you can do to help keep your joints in great working condition and reduce the chances of pain and injury.
Tips for Keeping Joints Limber and Strong
- Manage weight. Excess weight on our cartilage and bones causes the breakdown of joints. The additional load causes a release of chemicals that can lead to joint destruction. Osteoarthritis gets worse faster and is more severe in people who are overweight. They are also more likely to need hip or knee replacement surgery and have more complications post-surgery.
- Keep moving. Staying active is one of the best ways to prevent pain and joint stiffness. It’s important to move every day. As we age, we need to modify our workout routines to focus on strength training, cardio, and stretching equally. Strength training is vital because it helps us build muscle and improves the flexibility of the ligaments that support the joints. Cardio or aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, running, or cycling help burn calories, keep our endurance up, and keep the weight off. And stretching, of course, helps us stay flexible. Most important, consistent movement helps prevent injury that can lead to pain later in life. Many injuries I see as a physician are from people who sit behind a desk five days a week and then hit the tennis or pickleball courts hard on the weekend. That’s the quickest recipe for injury. If possible, add some activity to your weekdays as well; constant movement is the best way to keep your joints pliable and prevent injury.
- Start slow and listen to your body. Many people want to start strong when they begin a new exercise regimen. They work out too hard on the first day and risk inflaming or stressing the joint muscles. It’s important to give yourself time to build muscle strength around the joints—this allows the muscles that support the joints to take the impact of a more intense workout. If you’re trying to start a new routine, listen to your body, it will tell you if you’ve had enough. If you experience any pain during activity, cut back or stop. You don’t want to injure yourself or make your muscles so sore that you can’t work out the next day. Remember, the goal is to build a new routine, which means consistency, not power. If you haven’t exercised in a long time, start light with walks or bike rides. If you’re starting a new workout, go slow enough in the beginning to develop the proper form and technique. Another quick way to injure yourself is by improperly putting a lot of weight or impact on your bones and ligaments.
- Hydrate. Drink plenty of fluids. The fluid that directly lubricates your joints is primarily made up of water. This fluid is essential to reduce friction in your joints, which can cause pain. Hydration also helps build and strengthen the muscles around your joints to further protect with shock absorption and boosts our endurance.
Diana Macian, MD, of WellcomeMD Naples, is a board-certified emergency medical physician with 9 years of experience treating patients with a wide range of medical conditions. She and her team offer complimentary consultations to answer any questions you may have on how Dr. Macian can help you achieve optimal health. To schedule a tour of our practice and a free consultation, please call Pam Ross at 239.451.5105 or visit WellcomeMD at: wellcomemd.com/naples-florida, 11181 Health Park Blvd., Naples