How Joints Change as We Age
Age affects us in visible ways. Our hair turns gray, our skin loses it youthful smoothness and our posture may change.
Just as the body changes on the outside as it grows older, it changes on the inside too. One of the most profound differences we experience is in our joints. We can grow stiff, experiencing aches and weakness that makes it difficult and painful to move around as easily as we once did.
What You’ll Notice
Another visible change we notice as we age is a loss in height. That’s because the bones, particularly the vertebrae that make up the spine, lose calcium and minerals over time. The bones become thinner and the spine loses some of its length. The arches in your feet can also flatten out, which will make you shorter as well.
Your hips and knees will begin to lose the cartilage and fluid that cushions the places where the bones meet within them. This osteoarthritis can cause pain, sometimes quite severe, and weakness, which may limit your ability to move around normally. You may have difficulty walking and find yourself doing so more stiffly and slowly.
Your shoulders may become sore as well, and that’s due to calcium being deposited within the joints.
Another reason you’ll probably feel weaker overall is because muscles tend to atrophy over time. They too shrink and lose mass, and it takes them longer to respond when you want to move. Because muscles support the joints, this tissue loss also contributes to your overall weakness and stiffness. You may walk stooped forward as a result.
Because there’s less muscle mass available to support the joints, it becomes easier to fall, and because the bones also have less mineral mass, it becomes easier to break them. In combination, these things can be very dangerous. Falls are an extremely common cause of hospital admissions in older people, and they can result in even more serious consequences than broken bones.
What You Can Do About It
If that all sounds like bad news, there’s good news too! There are things you can do to strengthen your body and maintain better flexibility. While genes play a part in how we age, lifestyle does too, and it’s something we can control.
Exercise is very important. While the more strenuous activities you may have participated in during your 20s may be out of the question now, you can still help keep your muscles and bones strong by using them. While it is tempting to become more sedentary as a result of the pain and limited motion you experience, this will only make things worse. It’s definitely a matter of “use it or lose it.”
Joint specialists recommend moderate, low-impact exercise like weight training, biking, yoga, walking and swimming. Stretching is also highly beneficial for keeping your muscles toned, helping them to support your joints better. Exercise keep your reflexes sharper too, making you quicker to react and less likely to fall.
Diet also plays an important part in how we age and how healthy we remain. Eating a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables and lean protein will give your body the nutrients it needs and help keep your weight down, reducing the excess strain on your joints.
Where to Start
If you are feeling the effects of aging in your joints, a good first step is to visit a joint specialist to get advice about how to care for your body as it ages. In addition to lifestyle changes that help keep your bones and muscles healthy, there may also be non-surgical treatments that your physician can recommend to resolve specific joint problems you’re experiencing.
The experts at Flexogenix are here to help you maintain healthier, more flexible joints as you age. Contact us if you’re ready to fight back against the stiffness and pain of aging and enjoy an active lifestyle.