How to Beat Your Creaks: Follow Our Experts' Simple Tips to Put a Spring Back in Your Step

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The first symptom
is often a painful twinge in the knee, or maybe some stiffness in
your fingers. Like wrinkles and grey hair, creaky joints are the
first sign of growing old – and can herald years of chronic pain.

The cause is
usually wear and tear or osteoarthritis.

This leaves
millions on anti-inflammatory and painkilling drugs, while every
year thousands of others end up having joint replacement operations.

But there is
lots you can do to limit and even prevent this wear and tear.

In healthy
joints, cartilage acts as a shock absorber, providing a smooth surface
between the bones that’s 20 times more slippery than ice.

However, with
wear and tear, cartilage starts to disintegrate, leaving the ends
of the bones exposed. They then grind against each other, causing
pain.

Genetics, nutrition
and illness all have a role to play in how long our cartilage lasts.
But how you use your joints – and the muscles, ligaments and
tendons around them – is also vital.

Here, with
the help of experts, we explain how to avoid and limit joint damage,
including food and exercise to put the spring back in your step:
HIP

The hip is
a ball-and-socket joint. It has the widest range of movement of
all the main weight-bearing joints; it’s also the joint that suffers
the most wear and tear.

That’s because,
when you walk and stand up, the weight of the upper body pushes
down on the hip, while the legs apply pressure from below.

Men and women
tend to suffer from hip problems equally, with most people being
diagnosed from their mid-40s onwards.

HOW TO PREVENT
WEAR AND TEAR
: Strengthening the muscles, ligaments and tendons
around the hip is vital – by improving this scaffolding around the
joint, you spread the pressure of walking and standing throughout
the body and cushion the impact on the cartilage.

The best way
to do this is with non-impact exercise such as yoga, Pilates, swimming
and cycling.

One of the
worst things you can do is suddenly start a high-impact exercise
regime.

‘If you do
insist on running, you must warm up beforehand,’ says consultant
orthopaedic surgeon Tony Clayson, of the British Hip Society.

‘The muscles
need to be strengthened and the joints made supple before you start
pounding the pavements.’

It’s also important
to buy the most supportive pair of shoes you can afford, says Mike
O’Neill, of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists.

In general,
shoes with rubber soles are preferable, as they absorb shocks better
than leather.

If you have
flat feet, wear insoles – otherwise the feet may roll inwards, changing
the position of the thigh bones. This, in turn, will lead to the
pelvis tilting to accommodate the change, causing misalignment and
wearing.

USEFUL EXERCISES:
Exercise is the pumping mechanism that pushes nutrients into joints,
nourishing cartilage; if you don’t use your joints, you lose them.

Physiotherapist
Sammy Margo recommends swinging the legs backwards ten times each
a day, and then side to side to keep the hip moving well through
its full range of motion.

RISKY ACTIVITIES:
Wearing shoes with no cushioning, excessive weight gain.

SHOULDER

The shoulders
carry no weight, so are far less likely to suffer wear and tear.

Far more likely
is dislocation. This is because while shoulders have the greated
range of movement in the body unlike the hips the sockets are very
shallow so the bones are more likely to slip out or dislocate.

Shoulders
are also more at risk of ligament and muscle strain caused by sudden
lifting above head height or throwing.

HOW TO PREVENT
WEAR
: The main risk for shoulder mobility is, in fact, not using
the joint enough.

Read
the rest of the article

April
1, 2010

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