Stiff joints and aging usually go together like a hand in glove. Face it, don’t stress out, we’re not getting younger. But, there several things you can do to alleviate the stiffness and engage normally in everyday activities.
Stiff Joints: You’re Getting Older
As you age, your cartilage, the spongy material that protects the ends of your bones, begins to dry out and stiffen. Your body also makes less synovial fluid, the stuff that acts like oil to keep your joints moving smoothly. The result: Your joints may not move as freely as they used to. It sounds a little crazy, but the best thing you can do is keep on trucking. Synovial fluid requires movement to keep your joints loose.
Stiff Joints: Osteoarthritis (OA)
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.
Over-the-counter drugs can help with pain and swelling. If they don’t, your doctor might inject stronger treatments directly into problem areas.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
The immune system protects you from outside germs. Sometimes, it attacks the lining of your joints instead (your doctor will call this the synovium). RA is most likely to affect your wrist or finger joints, but it can show up anywhere in your body. It often causes constant pain and stiffness. Sometimes, it stays in the background and only flares up now and then.
RA with medications that slow or stop the disease process. These are called DMARDs, which stands for disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Along with drugs, eat well, rest when you need to but keep moving, and take good care of your joints.
Stiff Joints: Treating a Joint Injury
These conditions are easy to treat. You’ll likely make a full recovery. The first thing to do is give that joint a rest and take an over-the-counter pain medication. Wear a splint to wear and put ice on it.
Stiff Joints: Exercise
The more you move your joints, the less likely they are to get stiff. A little afternoon gardening or a walk around the block can help. You’ll strengthen the muscles that support your joints, keep your bones strong, improve your balance, and burn calories. Start slow, so you don’t get hurt.
Stiff Joints: Heat Therapy
If your joints are extra stiff in the morning, try a hot shower or bath. It’ll get blood flowing to the area, which loosens things up. You can also buy moist heat pads from the drugstore or make your own. Toss a washcloth into a freezer bag and microwave it for 1 minute. Wrap it in a towel and leave it on the area for 15-20 minutes.