Stiff joints are something most of us experience at some point in life — and certainly the risk increases as we hit old age.
But why does this happen so often? Is it part of the aging process. Well, one reason is that as we age, our cartilage — the spongy material that protects the ends of our bones, begins to dry out and stiffen. In addition, many of our bones are separated by a lubricating oil called synovial fluid. This fluid keeps our joints in synchrony and moving smoothly. Synovial fluid requires movement to keep your joints loose.
However, in our senior years, the spongy material can become brittle and the synovial fluid can dry out. As a result we can’t move about as freely as when we were younger and some movements are just painful.
A joint is the place where two bones meet. The end of each bone is covered in a layer of rubbery stuff called cartilage. This keeps them from rubbing together. But cartilage can wear away over time or after an injury. When it’s gone, the bones hit one another, and sometimes, tiny pieces break off. The result is a stiff, swollen, painful joint.
Stiff Joints: Treatments
Treatments for this condition are straightforward. Use over-the-counter-drugs such as Tylenol, Adleve, or Motrin. Some people develop stomach irritation with Motrin, so you might want to also use Tylenol which is milder. Surgery is rare. Other options include physical therapy and, of course losing weight — so that you put less stress on your bones and joints.
Stiff Joints: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Sometimes, one’s immune system can attack the lining of ones’ joints, specifically the wrist and finger joints. This is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Doctors don’t know what triggers it and it can show up elsewhere in the body as well. The pain and stiffness is constant.
Doctors treat it with anti-rheumatic drugs. Along with drugs, you can also take care of yourself — eat well, rest when you need to and keep moving. Exercise keeps your joints limber and can minimize the pain.
OA can be very painful. This condition happens when the joint area ( the place where two bones meet) loses cartilage. Cartilage is a rubbery substance that prevents bones from rubbing against each other. But, our cartilage wears away with age or injury, thus exposing the bones to each other. The constant rubbing of bone on bone causes swelling, and bone fragments. You end up with a swollen, stiff ad painful joint.
Treatments can include over the counter medications as well occasional injections of cortisone.
The more you move your joints, the less likely they are to get stiff. It really doesn’t require strenuous exercise. The main thing is to strengthen your muscles and keep your bones strong. Losing weight will also help.