Thin rays of sunshine are now making the occasional appearance between the hail, AND I saw a daffodil yesterday! Time to get me tracksuit out and get these joints moving; but I'm so stiff.
As we get older, discomfort becomes more and more part of everyday life; it creeps up on us. We feel stiff in the morning, our back aches, we have to walk rather than run upstairs (and use handrails). My poor husband has to roll back on the bed to get his socks on - he's only 54!
The temptation is to try and ignore all of this (unless we are using it as an excuse to avoid some sort of action – like dog walking). Wouldn't we all much rather watch telly after dinner, and get cosy?
The benefits of keeping active
On the other hand, there are some pretty impressive statistics on the benefits of keeping active, including:
- Up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
- Up to a 68% lower risk of a hip fracture
- Up to a 30% lower risk of dementia and depression.1
There are also the short-term benefits of exercise like feeling better, being more energetic and looking well with rosy cheeks. Netflix won't miss you at all.
Tips to help reduce stiffness and to improve motivation
Before you start, here are a few tips to help reduce stiffness and to improve motivation:
Get a good night’s sleep.
Poor sleep quality can affect the body's ability to repair any damage done, and has been shown to increase inflammation. It can also affect your emotional stamina, increasing pain perception. Studies have shown that it's often the lack of sleep that
results in pain, which perversely then becomes the pain that keeps you awake.2
I'm sure you have heard it all already but keeping hydrated is essential for healthy muscle function. "Ageing is characterised by slow and progressive process of dehydration."3 When you are dehydrated, your nice, juicy muscle cells shrink and become more like brittle rice crispies - crunchy and easily damaged. It will make you stiff as a board in the morning and will cause your muscles to seize, cramp and suffer pain or DOMS after exercise.4
Before, if you had any chronic pain or joint condition, the old-fashioned approach was to advise bed rest. This resulted in muscle weakness, low mood and sleep problems over time: not ideal. The modern thinking is to keep active.5
Strong muscles help to give the skeleton support and take the pressure off our joints. Keeping the spirits up with exercise (which promotes the production of happy chemicals such as serotonin) will help with sleep, mood and pain management. Supple muscles increase our range of movement and you can't beat a good stretch!
Natural remedies to help
There are many lovely natural remedies that can be used to treat muscle and joint pain, reducing inflammation and allowing for ease of movement. Arnica is a herb (with a pretty yellow flower) that is often sold as a homeopathic preparation; a very popular treatment for a number of ailments.
You can also buy it as a herbal preparation and this, especially, is a remarkably useful topical treatment for aches and pains. It doesn't matter if you are using it for a pulled muscle or a bit of osteoarthritis on your knee. I like it for my midge bites too, and find it very fast acting; just don't put it on broken skin. Arnica Gel is really handy if you don't like taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medications that may be hard on the tummy; and it may suit those who can't use ibuprofen gels. It can be taken alongside any medication, and for as long as you need it.
Another great remedy is Devil's Claw. It's been a little neglected recently because turmeric is so popular, but I love Devil's Claw for all sorts of minor joint pains. It can be added to other pain medication, which is often desirable to avoid overuse of that medication. I use it as a remedy for joint pain that may stop me from getting my shut-eye or going for a walk.
Talk to your doctor
Remember that if you have recurrent joint or muscle pain it is a good idea to talk to your doctor who can rule out any serious condition or refer you to a physical therapist, such as a physiotherapist, to get you moving.