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Joint Pain Doesn’t Have to Come with Aging

As we age, joint pain or arthritis can seem inevitable, but making healthy changes early may prevent this. Joint pain affects more than 50% of people over 65, but experts suggest it’s not necessarily a given. Understanding different types of pain can guide you on the right path to manage or prevent it.

senior joint painJoint pain varies based on factors like family history, physical activity, environmental conditions, and past injuries. Dr. Brett Smith, a rheumatologist, explains that while pain increases with age, it’s not an unavoidable fact of life. Two common types of arthritis include Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). OA, affecting 27 million Americans, results from cartilage wear and tear, often from prolonged joint use or injury, leading to bone rubbing on bone. RA, an inflammatory condition, involves the immune system attacking joint tissues, causing symptoms like tender, stiff, and swollen joints, fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

Identifying where pain might appear is crucial. High-traffic joints such as knees, lower back, neck, shoulders, toes, and the thumb base often suffer from OA due to injuries and extra weight. Arthritis in hands may result from genetics, injuries, or heavy use. To manage joint pain, you can make several lifestyle changes.

Quit Smoking

Smoking damages every organ, including your joints. It increases the risk of RA and worsens joint damage. Smokers may feel pain more intensely and find pain medication less effective. Quitting smoking can alleviate these issues. Consider joining a support group or using nicotine patches if you need help.

Lose Weight

Being overweight significantly contributes to joint pain. Every extra pound puts four pounds of pressure on your knees. Losing weight reduces this pressure, easing joint pain. For instance, shedding 10 pounds removes 40 pounds of pressure from your knees.

Get Moving

Regular physical activity prevents pain and further damage. Opt for low-impact exercises like swimming, walking, and biking instead of running. Weight training builds muscles that support your joints, while core-strengthening exercises help prevent falls and injuries. Try to move daily, perhaps by walking with a buddy or using a standing desk.

Avoid Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks boost inflammation, cause weight gain, and increase RA risk. Drinking enough water, which makes up 70-80% of joint content, keeps joints lubricated and reduces pain.

Eat Healthy

A healthy diet prevents joint pain. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and home-cooked meals avoid the negative impacts of processed foods. Dr. Elena Schiopu emphasizes the importance of investing time in cooking for better joint health, enhancing your quality of life as you age.

Prioritize Sleep

Quality sleep is crucial for managing joint pain. Poor sleep can worsen pain, cause depression, and lead to disability. Establish good sleep habits by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, turning off electronic devices an hour before bed, and engaging in relaxing activities like bathing, drinking tea, or meditating.

Treatments for Joint Pain

If joint pain persists, consult your doctor. Treatments include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), massage therapy, physical therapy, disease-modifying medications for RA, and surgery. Alternative therapies may involve supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, which protect cartilage and reduce inflammation. Fish oil, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, helps manage inflammation and stiffness. Procedures like acupuncture, viscosupplementation, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections also offer relief, though their effectiveness varies.

Consult Your Doctor

For joint pain at any age, talk to your doctor. Discuss steps to ensure a happy, pain-free aging process. Making healthy lifestyle changes and exploring various treatment options can significantly improve your quality of life.

Senior Citizen PH Web Team web team.

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