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As we get older, we’re all too likely to experience a new ache that wasn’t there before. Our knee suddenly goes funny, or our back starts getting sore a lot more easily.
Some would have you believe that our bodies are just suddenly old and broken at 30 and that’s the way of things. But it doesn’t have to be. Yes, we’re more likely to suffer from aches and pains as we age, but we can make a stand and say “no more!” Here are a few ways to do that.
A lot of joint pain is down to the fact that those joints lose their effective range of motion over time. It’s a “use it or lose it” deal, meaning we become less flexible not just as a natural part of aging, but because we’re not living as flexibly as we were before. This risk is particularly exacerbated if you live and work in sedentary environments. However, it doesn’t take too long to start the day with full-body stretching exercises. If you’re working at a computer, blogging, writing, or just playing video games and watching TV, you should do a full-body stretch routine every hour, as well.
Joint pain isn’t all entirely down to the joints, either. Besides keeping our skeleton upright, our muscles also support our joints. If we don’t have as much muscle as we should, then our joints are dealing with more pressure than they’re designed to, which causes pain and inflammation. It doesn’t matter what age you are or how inexperienced you might be with exercise; a beginner’s strength training regimen can start making an immediate difference in how much pain you feel. Immediately, you’ll feel the ache of your body having been worked in ways its unused to, but as your muscles repair and regrow, they pick up a lot of the slack that your joints are having trouble with.
What is weight worth?
Your weight is not the end-all and be-all when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. However, when it comes to managing joint pain, it plays a huge role. If we’re overweight, then that means our joints have to sustain more weight, as well. They don’t grow alongside us and become able to support that weight. Even a little weight loss can make a big difference. For every pound we lose, we lose 4 pounds of pressure on our knees, for instance. Not only does our body become easier to support now if we lose 10-15 pounds when overweight, but it also translates to a lower risk of osteoarthritis when we get older, too, meaning that we reduce our risks of chronic pain in the future, as well.
A tummy full of turmeric
There are certain foods that can help us prevent new aches and pains in our joints and muscles, as well. For muscle aches, making sure that you get a good supply of lean protein is essential. For your joints, you want to look at foods that can fight inflammation, which is where most joint pain starts. Turmeric is one of the best sources of anti-inflammatory nutrients around, but it’s not the only way to incorporate anti-inflammatories in your diet. Blueberries and ginger contain similar ingredients, while the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other fish aren’t just good for relieving and preventing pain, but are also seriously good for your heart, as well.
Warm up or cool off
If you’re dealing with those aches and pains now, you might not be looking for long-term strategies, but for immediately relief. Both cold and heat treatments can work at easing both the pain and stiffness, though it might take a little experimentation to see which treatments work best for you in which area. Applying a cold pack reduces the swelling and inflammation that causes pain by constricting blood vessels, which can numb the deep pain after a little initial shock. Meanwhile, heat treatments like hot water bottles expands blood vessels, improving circulation as well as relaxing the muscles to reduce painful spasms. A hot bath of heated wash cloth can work just as well, so try both heat and cold if possible and see which best helps you.
The seriousness of stress
The mind and body are inextricably linked, and our mindset can affect our physical sensations of pain, too. For one, the neurotransmitters like endorphins created during exercise can help us dull the sensation of pain (provided that we exercise responsibly in a way that doesn’t exacerbate the pain by avoiding high-impact exercises). Stress in another key factor. When stressed, we produced cortisol, a hormone that causes our muscles to tense, which can make inflammation all the more painful. Finding stress management techniques, improving cortisol control by getting a good night’s sleep, and using massage therapy to relax those tense muscles can all contribute a great effort to quelling pain.
Make sure you can manage it
There are plenty of pharmaceutical ways to tackle the joint and back pain associated with growing older, as well. As far as over-the-counter medications go, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen aren’t just painkillers like paracetamol, they also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help them more directly target back and joint pain. Of course, if you’re starting to suffer from serious, even chronic, aches and pains, then it’s wise to take your doctor’s advice. They may be able to address deficiencies causing pains (which we will get to in a moment) or prescribe stronger anti-inflammatories. If you’re having trouble picking up prescriptions, you can now order online, too, to make sure that you’re always in supply and always able to manage it. Just don’t order without consulting your doctor first. If a certain medication isn’t working during its first course, an alternative might be better than a repeat.
Don’t delay with deficiencies
One of the reasons to see your doctor is that your pains may not be solely caused by a lack of stretching and activity or by stress, age, or the more common factors. There are certain mineral and iron deficiencies that can cause pain and swelling often mistaken for the more “natural” kind. For instance, iron deficiency can result in, amongst other symptoms, swollen legs that get painful during the day and tingly at night. A potassium deficiency can result in restless leg syndrome, which can not only make your legs feel sore, but can even paralyse them for a while, making them hard to move when you first wake up. Sometimes, tacking those deficiencies can help you get over the pain entirely.
Don’t forget to get checked
Of course, when we talk about getting older and joint pain, we cannot deny the risk of arthritis. It’s one of the most common chronic conditions affecting older people and the longer it takes you to start managing it, the quicker it can get worse. When should you get checked for arthritis? If joint symptoms like swelling and pain last longer than three days at a time, or you experience them several times a month, it doesn’t matter what age you are, you should get checked out. By seeing the cause of the arthritis, it’s easier to recommend treatments that are effective in managing it.
Essentially, take a lot better care of yourself and you can go a lot longer without the aches and pains of being a newly minted old fogey. However, you should always be aware of the conditions that might be causing pains beyond “what’s expected”, so don’t keep your doctor out of the loop, either.