Ouch! An increase in years inevitably brings some changes to our skeletons with a natural thinning of bones. Changes in the joints, with arthritis, rheumatism and backache are painful reminders of the passing years. Joint pain is common and can be the result of injury, but more often a form of arthritis.
In older people joint pain that gets steadily worse is usually a sign of osteoarthritis, affecting just one joint, or many. It can start in one joint usually in hands, feet and wrists causing pain and swelling. This comes and goes in the early phases, with long periods between attacks.
Rheumatoid arthritis can start slowly; a few joints such as fingers, wrists or balls of feet which become uncomfortable and may swell intermittently. There may be stiffness getting out of bed, but see the doctor if pain, swollen joints and stiffness lasts longer than 30 minutes.
Reactive arthritis tends to affect young adults and usually develops after an infection, while another type, psoriatic arthritis affects up to one in five people with psoriasis. A rarer type of arthritis is ankylosing spondylitis, a long-term (chronic) condition in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed. Gout another type of arthritis usually affects the joint of the big toe first, before affecting other joints. It’s important to correctly diagnose as treatment will prevent future attacks of joint pain and disability. A similar condition is pseudogout which tends to affect the knee joint first. See your GP if you have persistent symptoms of arthritis.
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The knee joint is frequently damaged; it’s vulnerable because it takes the full weight of your body. However knee pain isn’t always a joint problem. If you’ve recently injured a joint and it’s painful the thin layer of tissue lining the joints and tendons may be inflamed, called traumatic synovitis. Knee pain that feels worse going up or down stairs could be a sign of a damaged kneecap, called chondromalacia patellae, often linked to overuse of the knee. Manage injury-related swelling and pain at home with anti-inflammatories, an icepack and rest.
With age muscles become weak and less able to support limbs, particularly if we’re not active. Muscles begin to atrophy, and your posture and self-esteem can be adversely affected. Although some bodily decline is inevitable much of the decline can be prevented, and some even reversed. Exercise can help ease joint problems and will keep you fit for work and play.