It’s natural to observe slight differences as we age, like a few additional wrinkles and a few grey hairs. However, most of us are unaware of the effect of aging on our skeletal system, including our joint pains. What happens to joints as we age?
WHAT’S A JOINT?
Here lies the answer. In simpler words, we have used our joints, misused them, or maybe even got harsh on them while we aged with time.
A joint is a link between two bones. Joints and their surrounding structures allow you to wave goodbye by bending your elbows and knees, wiggling your hips, bending your back, turning your head, and waving your fingers. Joints are the central part of our skeletal system. We use them for walking, for reaching, for holding, and grabbing throughout our lives.
In a joint, bones do not come into direct contact with one another. Rather than that, they are cushioned by cartilage within the joint. Cartilage supports the ends of your bones and helps them to glide smoothly and readily against one other. To keep your cartilage healthy, the synovium membrane surrounds your joint.
TYPES OF JOINT PAIN / ARTHRITIS
As a person ages, the ability of the body to regenerate and repair joint damages decreases, resulting in chronic inflammation. This acts as a very prevalent source of joint pain.
As you get older, you may experience joint pain. The joints grow increasingly rigid and inflexible. The cartilage may begin to rub against one another and eventually wear away. Degradation of cartilage occurs when the enzymes that break down connective tissue outnumber the enzymes that halt it. Matrix metalloproteinases are the main enzymes responsible for cartilage breakdown (MMPs). Osteoarthritis patients have more significant amounts of the enzymes MMP-2 and MMP-9 in their cartilage than healthy people. The loss of cartilage makes it difficult for joints to move and conduct daily tasks.
Because of the wear and tear that your cartilage experiences, your synovium may become inflamed and thickened. This may result in inflammation and an accumulation of excess fluid within your joints, leading to swelling. This whole wear and tear situation can be termed osteoarthritis (OA). Hip and knee joints are particularly vulnerable since they are the most mobile and weight-bearing joints in the body. However, it can affect the spine, ankles, and hands at an equal level.
Joint cartilage, particularly in the knees, hips, and hands, can wear down with age
Another form of autoimmune arthritis, meaning that the patient’s immune system (the body’s infection-fighting mechanism) is misbehaving that happens more commonly in women, is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). This inflammatory arthritis is a chronic (on-going) arthritis that affects both hands, wrists, and knees, distinguishing it from other forms of arthritis.
Want to know other changes that occur in our bones with age? Read here.
People usually experience the following symptoms with joint pains and arthritis:
- Stiffness usually in the morning.
- Numbness around the joint.
- Swelling or tenderness.
- Loss of flexibility.
- Cracking or popping sounds.
- Joint instability.
Here is a brief overview of all the joints that are affected by these age-related changes.
The spinal joint pain affects the facet joints, the cartilage between the spine’s bones, and the ligaments. The cartilage that protects the facet joints may wear away with aging. Your intervertebral discs contain a lot of water, and those discs may get dehydrated as you age. This can narrow your spinal discs, putting more strain on your facet joints.
Arthritis of the spine can cause stiffness and pain in the neck and lower back area. Occasionally, if the condition is severe enough to impact spinal nerves or the spinal cord itself, it can also result in weakness or numbness in the legs or arms. The majority of the time, while a person is lying down, the back discomfort is alleviated. Aside from the physical symptoms, this age-related change can cause social and emotional issues. For example, someone with osteoarthritis may feel melancholy or helpless.
The Hand and Thumb
Joint pains due to arthritis usually affect the base of the thumb joint. Other places that are affected include the wrist, fingertips, and knuckles. The wrist is a complicated joint made up of several tiny joints. In a healthy joint, the bones glide effortlessly over each other, covered by smooth cartilage.
Small bony knobs may form on the end joints (those nearest to the nails) of fingers with osteoarthritis. Fingers can become swollen, gnarled, achy, stiff, and numb. Aches upon hand usage, difficulty in moving fingertips, and weakened grip. Women are more prone than men to suffer from hand osteoarthritis. For the majority of women, it arises following menopause. Hand osteoarthritis has a genetic component. Family members may acquire osteoarthritis at a younger age.
The most prevalent kind is the osteoarthritis knee. It is a degenerative condition that typically presents itself after middle age and involves the gradual deterioration of the cartilage in the knee joint. Swelling and soreness in the knees are common symptoms of osteoarthritis, making it difficult to walk or climb stairs or get into or out of a chair or bathtub. Other symptoms include a gradual increase in pain, locking of joints, cracking & popping sounds, etc. Knee osteoarthritis can be severe and can lead to disability later in life with knee deformities. The muscles surrounding the knee can deteriorate, giving the impression of a sunken knee. The knees may begin to point inward or outward.
The hip joint pain is also frequent, like knee osteoarthritis. Hip joint symptoms include pain and stiffness of the joint, similar to knee osteoarthritis. However, pain in the groin, inner thigh, buttocks, and even knees can occur. Osteoarthritis of the hip can make it difficult to move and bend, making daily tasks like dressing and putting on shoes difficult. This pain can be more in the morning and gradually reduce in its intensity as the day passes.
The Ankle and Foot
Even in the early stages, arthritis in the toe can produce discomfort, muscle aches, and joint pain. You may also feel achiness or pain in other toes or the arch of your foot as you walk. You may even get a burning feeling over time, a common symptom of nerve pain or neuropathy. A painful arthritic toe may occur after prolonged hours of sitting or upon awakening in the morning. After prolonged periods of inactivity or immobility, stiffness and pain are frequently a marker of osteoarthritis.
Gouty arthritis, one cause of big toe joint pain, is another common foot ailment that affects elderly persons. Gout is an inflammatory condition in which a buildup of uric acid crystals around the joint results in acute and frequently excruciating pain, most commonly in the big toe. It mainly occurs in men. It occurs in women after menopause. Men are three times more likely than women to develop it due to increased uric acid levels.
How menopause affects women? Read the full article here.
WHAT CAUSES JOINT PAIN/ ARTHRITIS?
Arthritis is quite widespread in the United States, affecting roughly 1 in every 4 persons reported by CDC. Adults are more likely to develop or have worsening arthritis if they have certain behaviors known as risk factors.
- AGE. Your risk for most types of arthritis increases as you get older. Over half of all persons over the age of 65 indicate that their doctor has been told they have arthritis. However, an injury or accident history in younger people can raise the risk of osteoarthritis later in life, as per recent studies.
Age also reduces muscle tone and bone strength, making physical activity more difficult and stressful on the body.
- GENDER. According to research, arthritis affects nearly the same percentage of both sexes until around age 55. After that age, Women are more likely to develop most arthritis, including osteoarthritis. Men are more likely to develop gout.
- OVERWEIGHT AND OBESITY. Overweight or obese people are more prone to develop knee osteoarthritis than underweight people. Extra weight places additional strain on joints, particularly weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees.
The CDC estimates that by 2040, 26% of adults in the United States will have some form of arthritis. And with more than 71% of persons in the United States over the age of 20 being overweight or obese, it’s not unsurprising that these weight-related joint problems are so prevalent.
- OCCUPATION. Certain occupations increase the risk of developing arthritis early with repetitive movements and over bending of joints, such as farming, construction, cleaning, retail, etc. These professions require more physical exertion, causing more wear and tear on joints.
- GENETICS. Joint pains or arthritis are generally connected with genetics. Research has shown that women’s radiographic osteoarthritis of the hand and knee is genetically influenced by 39% and 66%, while osteoarthritis of the hip and spine is between 60% and 70% genetically affected.
- STRESS. Not necessarily due to aging, stress, as a result of a major life stressful event or minor occasions, is also a causal risk factor for the onset or the worsening of diseases including rheumatoid arthritis. Find out how to relieve stress to maintain a good join health here.
HOW TO AVOID JOINT PAINS AND THE TREATMENTS OF JOINT PAINS
As you age, you may expect to experience some degree of joint pain or arthritis. According to experts, this may not be the case if you begin making healthy lifestyle choices early.
Over half of persons over the age of 65 experience some amount of joint pain.
1. Lose extra weight
2. Increase your physical activity
Doing exercises regularly can help you avoid joint pains and further harm your joints as you become older. Low-impact exercises like swimming, strolling, and bicycling are better for your joints if you avoid high-impact ones like running. Cycling may have an advantage over other forms of exercise in preventing or delaying the onset of arthritis before symptoms appear. The muscles that support your joints are built through weight training. By strengthening your core (your abdomen and back muscles), you’ll be less likely to suffer joint damage from accidents like falls.
So, make an effort to get up and move around daily. Find someone to stroll with. If your job necessitates a lot of sitting, consider using a standing desk or taking calls while standing. Consult a doctor or physiotherapist before following any exercises. A physical therapist can assist you in developing an exercise plan that is customized to your specific needs. Read this article while planning for the best workout regimen for you too.
Do’s And Don’t of some sports.
4. Have good night sleep
5. Follow a healthy joint-friendly diet
6. Avoid sugary and inflammatory foods
Excessive consumption of processed sugar causes the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. According to research, these cytokines can produce pain, edema, and stiffness in the joints later in life. You can’t entirely avoid sugar, but you can limit it. Sugar-sweetened beverages have been associated with weight gain and obesity, which can exacerbate arthritis symptoms. Other than this, limits the intake of omega 6 fatty acids, saturated fats, and trans fat are suggested by researchers.
7. Stay hydrated
Water is a component of synovial fluid, which cushions and nourishes joints. A study published in July 2019 found that synovial fluid lowers friction in joints. Dehydration impairs the body’s ability to produce synovial fluid, increasing friction, and joint pain. Hydration offers nutrition, stress absorption, lubrication, and joint cushioning to joints. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine of the USA recommends that an appropriate daily fluid intake be as follows: 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women.
8. Ditch smoking and alcohol
9. Take help from Supplements
A large number of individuals use supplements to help with joint health. Many people take them to alleviate present joint pain, while others prevent future joint discomfort from occurring. Before selecting a supplement, inform your doctor or pharmacist of any other drugs you are currently taking so they can rule out any possible interactions. There are a variety of supplements available that may aid with joint health. Some of them are discussed below;
- Glucosamine: As a natural component of cartilage, glucosamine prevents bones from rubbing together, causing discomfort and irritation. It may also help reduce cartilage degradation in arthritis. Supplementation includes two kinds of glucosamine: glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate. Both have proven to be different in terms of their effectiveness. One study found that certain glucosamine sulfate supplements outperform others. The researchers observed that a prescription-strength crystalline glucosamine sulfate helped relieve joint pain. Doctors recommend against using glucosamine hydrochloride. Numerous supplements for joint pain contain glucosamine; according to some studies, such as one published in the Journal of Orthopaedics Surgery and Research, in the year 2018, glucosamine may improve with some symptoms, such as joint stiffness, but may be ineffective for others. Typically, 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine sulfate is given once a day (mg).
- Chondroitin. Like glucosamine, chondroitin is a cartilage component. Many companies combine glucosamine and chondroitin in joint pain health formulas since many feel the two components may act together to strengthen cartilage. Many studies have shown that chondroitin can help decrease osteoarthritis pain and stiffness. Around 53% of those using chondroitin report a 20% or more reduction in knee discomfort. Another research published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that while chondroitin can relieve pain, it has less significant side effects than other symptom management strategies like Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug NSAIDs. Chondroitin is typically taken in a dose of 400 to 800 mg two or three times per day.
- Turmeric. Numerous research on turmeric and its active component curcumin has been conducted. Curcumin appears to have a potent anti-inflammatory effect, which may help reduce symptoms. One investigation discovered that consuming 1,000 mg of curcumin daily may help decrease joint pain. This impact is comparable to that of NSAIDs like ibuprofen. The Arthritis Foundation suggests taking turmeric capsules (500 mg) 2 times per day. Or one level tsp equals 2,000 milligrams of turmeric powder.
- Fish oil/ Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil includes the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Many researchers have found that fish oil reduces joint pain in RA effectees but does not significantly affect OA. Typical fish oil doses range from 300 to 1,000 mg per day.
- Methylsulfonylmethane MSM. It is another frequent component in joint pain supplements. According to one research, MSM may help reduce inflammation, joint discomfort, and oxidative stress. Typical daily dosages vary from 1,500 to 6,000 mg, occasionally split into two.