60 is the new 40, they say – unless you’re one of the many people who run into joint problems as you pass that milestone.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis, but the biggies are osteoarthritis (most common – the kind you get as you age), rheumatoid arthritis (which can affect children and young people too, and is a condition where the immune system attacks the joints), psoriatic arthritis (associated with the skin disease psoriasis) and gout.
Osteoarthritis is associated with getting older, as the cartilage in your joints ‘wears out’ and movement becomes less smooth and easy – rather like what happens to a part in a machine when the lubricating oil gets low. It commonly affects the hands, hips, knees and the back.
• Osteoarthritis can affect people of any age, sex or race
• It’s more common in older people and in women
• Osteoarthritis may cause symptoms like swelling of joints, stiffness, pain and reduction in the range of motion
The good news?
There’s quite a lot you can do to slow the development of osteoarthritis and reduce the impact.
• Move! The more you move, the more fluid your joints will be.
Get up from your chair regularly and walk around; take the stairs; walk the dog. Cartilage and bone need movement to maintain their health.
• Exercise! The stronger the muscles around the painful joint, the less pain you’ll have
Your physiotherapist can give you targeted exercises and help you plan an exercise programme that’s doable for you.
• Keep your weight down.
Less weight, less pressure on the joints.
The body needs downtime – many of us don’t sleep enough.
• Avoid repetitive movements.
Whether it’s a finger on the computer mouse or constant bending to stack boxes, repeating the same movement over and over, in the same way, same position, day after day, can increase wear and tear on joints.
• Get clever about assistive devices.
If your movement is already limited by osteoarthritis, there are lots of things that can help you live better by making your grip or movement surer.
Your physiotherapist can advise you.
Osteoarthritis is a major focus of the work of physiotherapists. To find a physiotherapist who can help you understand and manage your painful joints – and move again – call the South African Society of Physiotherapy on (011) 615-3170, or visit www.saphysio.co.za.