What causes stiffness as you get older?



BSc in Health Studies, Dip.Nut
@EarleLogan2
Ask Earle


19 February 2019

Wear and tear

As we age, the muscle fibres shrink and muscle tissue is replaced at a much slower pace than it was in the past. Muscle tissue is also replaced by a tough tissue that reduces overall flexibility. 

As the muscles lose size and strength, all sorts of problems can arise. It becomes harder to exercise, for example, or we tire more easily and tasks that we used to take for granted become harder to achieve. 

In addition to changes in the muscles, the ligaments may also become stiff and leathery with age. 

Moreover, it is common to experience problems with the joints at this time because, not only is there less synovial fluid to lubricate the area, but cartilage, a connective tissue between the joints, is also prone to thinning. Both of these things can contribute to further pain and stiffness as we get older. 

How do I stop feeling stiff?

If wear and tear causes stiff muscles and joints I’d recommend trying Atrogel Arnica Gel. Made with extracts of freshly harvested Arnica, this product brings quick and effective relief from stiffness and pain in the muscles and joints. Atrogel can also be beneficial if you have suffered an injury such as a sprain or strain as the product helps to ease inflammation. 

Inactivity

Nowadays a sedentary lifestyle is becoming increasingly common – our jobs and our reliance on technology means we aren’t always getting the movement our bodies need to stay healthy. This is problematic in a number of ways, though particularly when it comes to the health of our muscles and joints as we get older. 

Exercise keeps the joints moving and supports the production of synovial fluid which lubricates them. Inactivity can therefore cause a decrease in synovial fluid levels and stiffness may arise as a result. On top of this, lack of exercise can cause cartilage to shrink and stiffen meaning mobility may become more difficult. 

How do I stop feeling stiff?

If you are able to, I’d recommend incorporating a little more movement into your daily routine to help improve the state of your muscles and joints. Now, I’m not suggesting you purchase a gym membership and get going on the treadmill right away! A simple walk once a day will get you moving, as will a gentle exercise class such as yoga. 

The muscles and joints can also benefit from regular stretching which helps to loosen them up and improve flexibility. Over on our Get Active hub we have a range of resources that may help with this so I’ve listed links to the most relevant pieces below.   

Excessive exercise

Excessive exercise can take its toll on the body. An overuse injury can occur, for example, when too much strain is put on a particular area of the body or when it is exposed to repetitive trauma (continuously hitting the pavement when running is a good example of this). Pushing your body too hard too quickly and not allowing for an effective period of recovery can also result in injury and stiffness. 

Whilst some people will be able to continue with their exercise regime as they get older, others may have to rein it in a little. Perhaps you are no longer able to pound the pavements round your home or climb mountains at the weekend. Still, if you were a fitness enthusiast in the past, this could continue to have an effect on your muscles and joints as you get older. An old sporting injury, for example, can continue to cause discomfort. On top of the changes to the muscles and joints that I outlined in the above section on ‘wear and tear', this creates the potential for severe pain and stiffness. 

How do I stop feeling stiff?

As we get older it is important to keep exercising because, not only does it keep the muscles and joints healthy, it also influences weight, mood, energy levels and skin. If you are suffering from soreness and stiffness, however, I’d recommend opting for a gentle workout rather than trying to maintain the exercise regime you had in your 20s!

Cycling, swimming and golf are just a few examples of low impact sports that will be gentle on the muscles and joints. 

On top of this, it is important to know how much exercise you should be doing. National guidelines suggest that adults should do either 75 minutes of vigorous exercise as week or 150 minutes where there is a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity exercise. 

Menopause

As Eileen our Menopause Expert will tell you, muscle and joint pain, stiffness and creaking are unwanted symptoms that occur at this time. 

Falling oestrogen levels can, effectively, dehydrate the joints, ligaments and tendons leading to:

  • Inflammation in the joints
  • Joint pain
  • A reduction in the range of movement of one’s limbs. This is particularly noticeable if you have been in the same position for a long period of time – at work, for example, or when you get up in the morning.

As well as this, falling oestrogen levels can contribute to weight gain during the menopause which puts added pressure on the joints. There is also the issue of hot flushes and night sweats which dehydrate the body and so again contribute to muscle and joint pain, as well as stiffness

How do I stop feeling stiff?

Eileen highly recommends that women stay hydrated during the menopause as this helps a whole range of symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats and aches and pains. 

Another important thing to address, however, is diet. Foods rich in magnesium, such as spinach, are incredibly important as being deficient in this mineral is likely to exacerbate cramps, pain and stiffness. On top of this, avoiding fizzy juice, caffeine and alcohol can be helpful as these things are all highly inflammatory which, once again, will only make matters worse. 

My Top Tip:

 

Balance Mineral drink provides magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium and vitamin D. It supports normal muscle and bone function, but can also help reduxe tiredness and fatigue.

Pour one sachet of Balance Mineral Drink into a glass containing 150ml of water or milk and then stir well. The drink has a natural strawberry flavour so is both refreshing and tasty!


“Tastes lovely. Fantastic at night when you fancy a coffee.”

 

Read what other people are saying about Balance Mineral Drink.

Osteoarthritis

The risk of developing osteoarthritis, a condition which causes pain, stiffness, tenderness and creaking in the joints, increases with age. Problems are most likely to occur in the knees, hips and the hands.

Each bone has a layer of cartilage which is soft and flexible and acts as a protective barrier. When there is osteoarthritis, however, this cartilage dissolves leading to pain and stiffness. In some cases, little growths of bone can also appear leading to the joints becoming red and swollen.

How do I stop feeling stiff?

If you are concerned about osteoarthritis, the first thing you need to do is speak to your doctor. This is particularly important if you are over the age of 50, if any stiffness lasts more than 30 minutes when you get up in the morning and if the pain in your joints gets worse the more you move them.

If a diagnosis of osteoarthritis is confirmed then there are a number of measures that can be taken to manage the condition. Being overweight can exacerbate the problem, so a doctor may recommend tips to help you lose weight and exercise. When symptoms are more severe, however, painkillers and physiotherapy may be advised.

 

1 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoarthritis/ 

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