Yes it is tough to get old. Thinning hair, bifocals, joints mimicking barometers; you may know the story or have heard it more than you care to. And for even more of us, the complaint of joint pain from once infallible coworkers and friends is becoming more commonplace. With aggressive athletic endeavors behind us, and a relatively sedentary lifestyle to date, why does my body just seem to hurt more?
For the majority of us, unfortunately, our daily activities are slowly wearing us out. Why? Because we tend to do the same things, in very similar patterns everyday. Just like the waves splashing up against a rock formation, slowly but surely, it takes it toll.
A joint is formed where bones come in contact with one another. The interacting surfaces are lined with cartilage. When we are young, joint motion can be likened to rubbing two smooth pieces of ice together, very smooth and well lubricated. As we age, the cartilage can become damaged. This is due to either an incidence of severe trauma, ie. a bad fall, or recurring mild trauma, ie. faulty posture at a work site. The first example is obvious, the second, a bit more difficult to understand when it comes to joint degradation.
A good example of cumulative stress to a joint is that of bending a finger backwards. When you get to the end of the motion, there is a moderate amount of resistance or strength. Pulling that finger back for ten minutes would be well tolerated by most. Continuing for multiple hours, day after day, would become chronically painful however. Here a portion of the joint would be compressed for a prolonged period, as well, the ligaments holding the joint together would become slackened and less stable. The combination of recurring impact and instability create a slow wearing process at the surface of the joint, just like water against a stone.
People tend to use their joints in this fashion for prolonged activities, a good example is sitting. Ultimately, less energy is expended since there is minimal use of the musculature to hold oneself upright. When people get tired of sitting correctly at their desk all day the same thing happens, we slump. This subsequently stretches the ligaments and loads a portion of the joint surface for an extended period. Our bodies are quite durable, and this process can go on for years without much ill effect. For most however, the annoying discomfort that makes us squirm (hint) in our chairs is all too obvious.
Your body is telling you something as it attempts to escape its daily imprisonment from in front of the computer or desk. Movement is necessary to prevent the ongoing pattern of wear and tear. Not only does motion help to change how the joints and ligaments are loaded, but it also increases blood flow to the entire body, which is crucial for tissue repair and maintenance.
Make it a habit to get up from your chair every half hour or so and move about, even if its for only a few seconds. Even better, find 3-4 stretches that best serve your needs and utilize these at 30-45 minute intervals during the day. If symptoms are more problematic, stretch lightly at the onset of fatigue. Waiting until pain arises is too late, the inflammatory process has already taken hold and will be difficult to stabilize, especially if there’s 4-5 hours of work ahead of you. Break the day up with a little exercise at lunchtime. If you can’t get to the club, a walk will serve you well. Remember, pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong; take heed, no pain, no gain, no brain.