Chris Judd: How to look after your joints

It seems that the older you get, the more your joints start to ache. Is this an unfortunate part of ageing? Or are there strategies that will keep us feeling flexible and limber? Chris Judd and a physiotherapist certainly think so.

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When it comes to your joints, an old saying applies: ‘use it or lose it’. Often when people feel pain in their joints, their first reaction is to try and avoid stressing them – but that might not always be the best plan. The idea that inaction is a good solution is flawed – a lot of the time that pain might actually indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed and strengthened.

In saying that, If you've got an arthritic knee the best answer probably isn’t to go out on a run. But, equally, the solution isn’t to do nothing, either. Something like moderate cross-training on a bike could be beneficial in a case like that.

Make your #onechange

If you work at an office job, make sure you move at least once every hour. Do a lap of your floor, take the stairs, or follow a longer route to the bathrooms. Whatever helps you to stay moving.

Build your strength

While there’s no cure for conditions like osteoarthritis, that doesn’t mean that there’s isn’t anything that can be done. Often people with painful joints will avoid excessive movement because they’re feeling sore and uncomfortable. But by limiting their movement, they’re going to lose the muscle bulk that’s supporting the joint, which in turn can make the pain worse. Unfortunately, it’s a really nasty cycle that’s easy to fall into.

People would be really surprised by how much maintaining muscle bulk around their joints could actually assist them. Things like Pilates or Ashtanga vinyasa yoga – where you’re not required to hold poses for extended periods – can be helpful. Working through defined movements and building strength will help keep you mobile. I’m also a huge advocate for dry needling, which has been a really effective treatment for me.

Take the reins

If you’re experiencing pain in your joints, it’s important not to try and go it alone. The area that you’re feeling sore in is not necessarily where the problem is originating from, so you’ll need a professional consultation to identify the underlying source. Make an appointment with a physio, get a treatment plan, and invest in your own health. Don’t look at it as a chore, instead see it as an opportunity to learn more about your body.

Remember, you’re the one who’s in control of your own recovery. The important thing is to not let the pain define you. I’ve had times when I’ve been so sore that I’ve caught myself speaking about it non-stop. It almost becomes a part of you – and you really don’t want to live like that.

Expert opinion: Nicole Bryant – Physiotherapist and Director of High Line Active

Joint problems commonly present in adolescence and they’re usually related to sporting incidents. Things like knees, shoulders, and ankles are where we see problems – acute injuries that are from a ligament sprain or a dislocation.

Then in the late teens and early 20s, you start seeing neck and back pain that’s associated with sitting all day in office jobs.

I hear that joint pain is an inevitable part of ageing all the time, but that’s only partly true.

Most age-related changes actually come from not moving. When we move, fluid lubricates our joints and keeps things healthy – the ligaments and connective tissue stays nice and flexible. When people don’t move, they lose that flexibility around the joint. That means that they’re more likely to suffer from accelerated wear and tear.

A common reason that joints begin to ache is because of stiffness and immobility – especially when people haven’t been active in many years. It’s never too late to improve – people in their 70s and 80s will still make gains – but the earlier you start, the better.

The best thing you can do for your body is to remain active, fit, and healthy. Have an exercise routine and stay moving. If you work in an office, don’t sit still for too long.

The big thing with stiffness is that, although it might be causing you pain, once you start moving it will often go away. It’s a matter of knowing how to move safely, and that’s where we come in as physiotherapists. If you’re concerned, make an appointment and a physio will develop a plan for you. It’s very rare that I would tell a patient they need to stop exercising.

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The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.