Managing Joint Pain as you get older

Joint pain is thought to be inevitable as you get older. However, this often leads to people simply accepting their discomfort and not seeking out treatment. In this day and age, there are a wealth of various ways to manage your joint pain, and you shouldn’t suffer in silence.

What causes joint pain?

Joint pain is soreness, aching and discomfort in your joints. This may commonly be down to illness or injury, but can also be due to a multitude of conditions and factors. One of the most common causes of joint pain is arthritis.

Arthritis is actually not one single condition, but instead refers to many different issues that result in joint pain. The most common joint complaints from sufferers include pain in the thumb, big toe, hip, finger, shoulder, elbow and knees. Arthritis is one of the most common causes of disability in the UK, affecting over 10 million people.

Pain may also be down to bone spurs, which are growths that occur on your joints. You may experience numbness and tingling as the bone presses on your nerves. Bone spurs are more common in older adults, partly due to the increased incidence of osteoarthritis. They’re most common in those that are 60 and older, however you can develop them at any age.

As you get older, your immune system typically becomes weaker, making you more prone to infection. 

Infectious diseases such as influenza, mumps and hepatitis can also cause joint pain. Even Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) can result in joint pain if they’re severe, through what’s known as reactive arthritis. This is an infection in another part of your body triggering inflammation and pain in your joints, as the infection spreads across your system.

Overusing a joint and straining it is one of the most common causes of joint pain. Overdoing an activity and causing trauma to your joint can be really damaging to your joints, especially if this happens often. Repeated overuse of your joints can lead to injury, aggravated by repetitive motions and stress. If you’ve overworked a joint, you should get lots of rest and consult your doctor if you’re concerned. 

Joint pain may also arise following a tendon injury, if you’re experiencing tendonitis. This is your tendon becoming inflamed, usually following injury or overuse. This will typically heal by itself in 2 to 3 weeks, as long as you make sure to rest. As your tendons are near your joints, this can cause pain and tenderness. 

What are the common treatments?

There are many different ways to tackle joint pain. One of the main pieces of advice is to avoid prolonged bed rest. Whilst you may think that resting your joints is good, too much inactivity in one position can damage and weaken your joints. Your doctor may prescribe you certain medications such as NSAIDs, anticonvulsants and antidepressants to relieve pain. 

Physiotherapy may be suggested so to improve your flexibility, keep your joints strong and reduce pain. Your doctor may also suggest trying stretching exercises such as pilates or yoga.

The NHS have a great series of instructional pilates videos for those with arthritis!

Massages can also really help with joint pain, especially for issues linked to inflammation. Joint function can be greatly improved by easing surrounding muscle stiffness and improving circulation. In some severe cases, surgery may be the best course of action.

Are there other ways to manage joint pain?

You might choose to try out certain supplements for joint pain- such as curcumin or fish oil. 

There are also some lifestyle changes that you can make which can really help. 

  1. Stop smoking
    • One of the best ways to take care of your joints is to stop smoking. Tobacco smoke can increase inflammation throughout your body, and is thought to contribute to cartilage loss. One study found that men with osteoarthritis in their knees that smoke had a much greater loss of cartilage and more severe knee pain. If you’re looking to stop smoking, the NHS has an amazing free service to help out.

     2. Regular exercise

    • Regular exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling and yoga can be great to keep joints healthy. It’s essential to increase flexibility and strength, reduce fatigue and aid joint pain. However, you must always make sure to warm up and cool down. This is especially true for older adults, whose joints may be less resilient. Skipping your warm-up can greatly strain your joints. Even just 5 minutes of stretching can really make a difference!
Female swimmer at the swimming pool.

     3. Drink enough water

    • You can also take care of your joints by making sure you get enough water. This is as cartilage is made up mostly of water, keeping joints lubricated. Staying hydrated is also essential for fighting inflammation, and has been shown to reduce gout attacks.

     4. Eat a balanced diet

    • A balanced diet is also important for joint health. Eating a sufficient amount of calcium and Vitamin D is essential to upkeep your bone strength, density and resilience. These two nutrients work together, with calcium building bones and Vitamin D helping to absorb calcium. Making sure you get enough of all required nutrients can really help to protect yourself from many ageing issues, not just joint pain!

      5. Try meditation

    • Meditation can be a great way to cope with pain in your joints. It can greatly lower your stress levels, which has been found to reduce inflammation and pain. This is also especially important as anxiety, depression and stress are common in those that suffer from chronic pain issues. You don’t have to fork out lots of money for professional classes- Youtube videos and apps are amazing these days!

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