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Tips from Bethany Village Exercise Physiologist: Achy Joints? Try moving!

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All across the world, a good percentage of people wake up in the morning mumbling and grumbling about their backs being stiff, necks being stiff, shoulders being stiff, and so on. If you are an older adult who experiences achy joints, you are one among many. Sometimes the stiffness can stem from tight muscles around a joint, from arthritis, or from an injury to a joint that is taking time to heal. Whatever the reason for the stiffness in a joint, one thing we all know is that much relief comes from medications (anti-inflammatories) and rub-on creams. Oftentimes when we have achy joints, moving is the last thing we want to do because it isn’t comfortable and it takes a lot of effort. What if you were told, though, that moving is just what the body needed?

So the idea has been thrown out there; movement is what the body needs. What now? Here are some ideas to help reduce the intensity of the achy joints or maybe even eliminate the them completely.

– Warmup– If you are a person regularly exercising and are prone to achy, stiff joints, a proper warmup before exercising is highly recommended. A warmup usually consists of body weight movements done for reps or a short period of time so that heart rate increases and blood flow becomes more efficient to our  peripheries. The soft tissues that encompass our joints, the ligaments, tendons and muscles all loosen up.
– Stretch– Stretching has a multitude of benefits for the soft tissue in our body’s. Stretching helps elongate muscle fibers, ligaments, and tendons, which can reduce tension on our joints. The greater range of motion in our joints reduces the likelihood or severity of the achy joint.
– Have a ball– Use a tennis ball to relieve achy joints. This may sound silly, but using a ball can help massage achy joints. By using a ball to massage the joints, you can decrease any muscle tension to take stress off the joint. This sometimes can happen after one use, but usually it can take a few sessions to fully relieve tension. It is recommended that you gently massage an affected joint for 30-60 seconds.
– Wake up moving– As you wake up, stretch your legs out and lift your arms overhead. This is a natural act that we do when our body is stiff from sleeping. Take a few moments to lie in bed and move your arms and your legs to help prepare your body for getting out of bed.
– Invest in cardio– Cardio training can actually help condition the body to have better range of motion and helps promote better oxygen utilization by our muscles.
– Stay fluid– Sometimes dehydration can cause our cartilage to dry out which can cause achiness and discomfort. By drinking water regularly, we keep our    cartilage soft and flexible. Water also helps promote better nutrient flow to our soft  tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments).
– Go beyond body weight– Moving your body is fine but moving your body with a resistance against it is so much better! Strength training can actually condition your body to tolerate discomfort and pain better. This takes development; it doesn’t happen instantly. If you suffer from achy joints, it would be a good idea to use a method of alternating upper body and lower body exercises during a session. You do not have to lift heavy weights, as that can put undo stress on your joints; light to moderate resistance is preferable.

Written by Bethany Village

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