Why we experience increased joint pain as we get older

Personal/Fitness Training Blog

As we get older, changes happen to our body. It gets a bit more difficult to lose weight when we don’t watch our diet and we experience joint pain when we perform certain movements.

In this article, we look at the structure of the various joints we have in our body, their function and why they become slightly more immobile as we get older.

How does one classify a joint in the body?

There are three types of joints that can be found in the body:

  • Immovable,
  • Cartilaginous, and
  • Synovial.

Immovable joints – also called fibrous joints – are connected very closely together and there is no joint cavity. The bones of the skull are connected using immovable joints.

Cartilaginous joints are also very compact – as are fibrous joints – however these allow a very small amount of movement.

Vertebrae are connected to each other with cartilaginous joints. (Injuries to the back – such as herniated discs, pinched nerves and bulging discs – are because the vertebrae can move and some sort of movement has been done incorrectly says orthopaedic surgeon Dr Peter F Ullrich.)

Synovial joints – which make up most of the joints in the human body – are able to move freely. They are surrounded by an articular capsule which contains synovial fluid. Many of the synovial joints have ligaments inside or outside of the capsule.

There are six types of synovial joints:

  • Hinge, which are found in the elbow and knee,
  • Ball and socket, which are found in the shoulders and hips,
  • Pivot, which are found in the neck,
  • Plane, which are found in the vertebral joints,
  • Condyloid, which are found in the knuckles, and
  • Saddle, which are found in the thumbs.

The mechanics of every joint in your body

Why do joints degenerate as we age?

It’s not actually the joints themselves that degenerate. It’s the cartilage that cushions the joints that degenerates says Kimberly Holland in an article medically reviewed by Dr George Krucik. Once this cartilage becomes incredibly thin, the bones themselves start to rub together causing pain, damage and osteoarthritis.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to stop cartilage from wearing away. It’s a natural consequence of ageing. However, the Arthritis Foundation does say that it’s possible to mitigate the symptoms of this disease by, for example, losing weight, maintaining your blood sugar and engaging in regular, moderate exercise.

What exercises are good for osteoarthritis sufferers?

Experts recommend that osteoarthritis sufferers engage in:

  • Strength training, which includes,
  • Endurance/aerobic training, and
  • Flexibility training.

There are a couple of great exercises to do with people who have osteoarthritis:

  • Leg swings: Hold onto a wall and gently swing your leg out to the side. Alternate sides. (This is a wonderful exercise for your hips.)
  • Leg extensions: Hold onto a wall and gently swing your leg backwards. (This is also great for your hips.)
  • Straight leg raises: Sit in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Raise one leg and lower it. Alternate your legs. (This is great for maintaining knee health.)

Working with elderly patients, as a personal trainer, is very rewarding as you will be able to assist them in overcoming ailments such as osteoarthritis. Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Exercise and the Elderly Course will make you the best personal trainer for the elderly out there. Click here for more information.