Joints and Muscles
This most often begins in our forties and by the age of 65 more than half of us have some evidence of this joint damage, even if we have no pain. Joint cartilages start to become thin and roughened as we age.
As the body tries to repair this, the bones in the shoulders, knees, hips and finger ends may become knobbly and fluid may collect in the joint, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. Osteoarthritis may be partly caused by wear and tear, but is mostly dependent on our genes.
Strains and sprains
Acute muscle or ligament strains and sprains can occur after over-strenuous activity or an awkward movement. They heal more quickly if you rest and cool the area, use a support bandage and elevate the injured part.
This condition needs to be treated by your GP. Normally your immune system makes antibodies to attack bacteria and viruses. In rheumatoid arthritis your immune system also makes antibodies that attack the linings of your joints, making them inflamed, stiff and painful.
Over time, this can cause damage to the joint, the cartilage and the bone near the joint. There's a tendency for the condition to run in families; genes may be one factor. Rheumatoid arthritis is twice as common in women - some research suggests that oestrogen (a female hormone) may be involved in the development of the disease.
Looking after your joints
To help reduce your risk of developing joint trouble in later life:
- Maintain healthy joints by keeping a healthy weight to help reduce pain by easing the pressure on your joints
- Eat plenty of oily fish, vitamins and minerals. The omega-3s in oily fish, nuts and seeds help some people. The body uses these particular fatty acids to make hormone-like prostaglandins that can help prevent inflammation
- Moderate exercise can help relieve some of the symptoms of arthritis, and improve bone density