In the United States, more than 92 million people have doctor-diagnosed arthritis or arthritis-like symptoms, namely joint pain. These staggering numbers coincide with an aging population, which certainly points to a direct connection between age and joint pain.
The highly skilled team of physical therapy experts here at TLC Physical Therapy, led by Jason LaMendola, PT, routinely helps people over the age of 50 who are struggling with joint pain and we understand this connection.
In the following, we explore why joint pain tends to crop up as you get older and what we can do about it, as we consider joint pain to be anything but normal.
Far and away, the leading driver of joint pain in people over the age of 50 is osteoarthritis (OA), which affects 32.5 million people in the US. OA, which is also known as degenerative arthritis or wear-and-tear arthritis, occurs when the cartilage inside your joint begins to break down, allowing your bones to rub together. With the loss of this protective tissue inside your joints, you can experience pain and inflammation.
While OA certainly accounts for a large percentage of joint pain over the age of 50, there are other issues that can lead to discomfort, such as:
If you enjoy an active lifestyle, you place more pressure on your joints throughout your life, which can cause them to break down prematurely. For example, a daily runner may experience knee pain sooner than someone who doesn’t run.
Another issue that can lead to joint pain is carrying extra pounds. If you’ve been overweight for much of your life, the added burden can stress your joints over the years, causing pain by the time you reach your 50s and beyond.
If you have a previous injury, this area may be permanently weakened, which can lead to joint pain later in life. For example, perhaps you broke your ankle in your 20s and the bones didn’t set properly. Through your 30s and 40s, you didn’t experience many problems, but the weakness catches up with you in your 50s.
There are other factors that may place you more at risk for developing joint pain in your 50s, such as genetics and gender, but these are factors over which you have little control.
As we mentioned, experiencing joint pain in your 50s is very common, but we don’t consider it to be normal. While taking ibuprofen, or something similar, can certainly help alleviate your joint pain for a few hours, physical therapy provides a long-term solution for your joint pain and also helps further deterioration in your joints.
With this approach to joint pain, we strengthen the surrounding tissues to reduce the pressure on your beleaguered joints. As well, our physical therapy can help you maintain a good range of motion, which allows you to move more freely.
Through targeted strengthening and flexibility exercises, we not only reduce joint pain, we encourage better circulation to aid in healing your damaged tissues.
If you want to explore how physical therapy can get you back to pain-free movement, please contact one of our offices on the North and South Shores of Staten Island; in Englishtown, New Jersey; or in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, to schedule an appointment.