Why Our Joints Deteriorate as We Age
It’s a fact of life that our bodies start to show signs of wear as we age. This is especially true of our joints, which allow us to move through the world while bearing the brunt of our exertions.
The older we get, the more likely it is that our joints start to bother us; a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2013 and 2015 found that around 29% of people between the ages of 45 and 64 were diagnosed with arthritis, with the number rising to nearly 50% of those aged 65 and older.
Understanding why our joints deteriorate as we age, along with some options for addressing joint problems, may help you learn the best way to support joint health and minimize deterioration as you get older.
Age Affects Joint Cushioning
Have you noticed your joints grower stiffer and less flexible as you get older? This is likely because the amount of cushioning between the bones is decreasing.
The place where bones connect to form a joint is cushioned by cartilage, connective tissue (synovial membrane), and lubricating fluid (synovial fluid). As you age, the layer of cartilage that protects your joints begins to thin, and the amount of lubricating fluid decreases.
Less active people may experience these changes more acutely, since using the joint keeps fluid moving and inactivity causes cartilage to shrink and stiffen.
Preventing Age-Related Deterioration
While you can’t slow the hands of time, you can take steps to protect your joints from age-related deterioration. Since lack of movement can negatively affect the amount of cushioning around your joints, getting regular exercise is an excellent way to support healthy joints.
Any physical activity is great as long as you like it enough to stick with it, although adding moves like walking lunges that use many of your major joints is helpful for mobility. Just make sure to warm up properly before exercising to reduce your risk of injury.
Another way to help prevent age-related joint deterioration is to maintain a healthy body weight. Your knees feel between two and three times the force of body weight, so each pound you keep off or lose equals three pounds less pressure on your joints.
Treating Joint Deterioration
What happens if you’re past the point of prevention, and your joint problems are interfering with your ability to do the things you love? There are many options when it comes to treating joint deterioration.
For minor joint issues, you may be able to manage your symptoms with over-the-counter medications or appliances like braces and splints. Physical therapy may also be an option for increasing strength and improving mobility.
If over-the-counter medicines aren’t enough, a specialist may suggest prescription medications and/or steroid injections to help relieve pain and other symptoms.
For people whose joint problems can’t be managed through non-surgical treatment, there are many surgical options — some of which are minimally invasive. Even more involved surgeries like joint replacement that are less painful (and easier to recover from) than you might think.
Replacing a joint that is preventing you from functioning normally can give you a new lease on life, allowing you to get back to doing the things you love without pain.
JIS can diagnose and treat your injury, and help you recover
Experiencing joint deterioration that is limiting your day-to-day activities? Come in and see us. We’ll make sure we diagnose your situation appropriately, and take the best course of action to get you back to living without limits. Schedule an appointment online or by calling 614.221.6331.