Pain is a tough one to describe for most people. There is sharp pain, burning pain, shooting and stabbing pain, throbbing and stinging pain. For some it is only once they have experienced each of these that they can fully understand and relate their experience of pain to others. Without first-hand experience pain can be very difficult to verbalise and describe.
‘Ache’ type pain is something most of us have probably been exposed to for one reason or another.
We feel aches for many reasons. Some of those commonly being:
- Sick – unwell with the flu, common cold or COVID-19 may have caused some sensation of aching within the body. This is usually due to inflammation as the body fights the virus which leaves the muscles and joints feeling stiff.
- Medication can also cause aches in the body as a side effect. Those taking cholesterol lowering medication in the form of a statin and blood pressure medications often report side effects of aching, whilst withdrawal from other drugs such as alcohol or opiate pain medications can leave you with a similar affect. [i]
- The beauty of AGE can cause those over the ache of 45-50 to experience more aches and pains with less known injury or cause. This is a result of years of wear and tear on the joints and soft tissues of the body combined with the effects of ageing (poor healing and regeneration) itself on these tissues and structures.
As joints age, the cartilage (smooth protective layer that covers the ends of bones and absorbs shock) degenerates and becomes thinner and less smooth. This causes the joints (connection of 2 bones) to move less freely. Osteoarthritis is the medical term for the progressed stage of this process with approximately 50% of those over 70 years old being diagnosed with OA.
But don’t fret! It is not all doom and gloom. This is a natural progression of life and considering joints as being ‘worn beyond repair’ is a misconception. Joints still thrive off exercise and being loaded regularly. It allows cells within the body to repair and lay down new tissue, reducing the rate at which the joint deteriorates. Exercise keeps the muscles strong and healthy, supporting and taking pressure off the joints.
Maybe it is time to consider switching out higher impact exercise such as running or playing contact sports such as rugby for an exercise that is strength focused e.g. reformer pilates or a gym program. A water-based activity where the joints are cushioned like swimming or aqua aerobics are excellent forms of low impact resistance training if that’s up your alley
When we are proactive with identifying the cause of the aching, pain can be better managed and controlled. Exercise has been proven to reduce the pain associated with arthritic change as well as improve the outcomes for those post joint (knee, hip) replacement by improving the strength, range, and stability of the joint. [ii]
Don’t just live with your aches! There may be some simple changes to your daily or exercise routine that can reduce your pain and prolong the health and life of your joints. Come in for an assessment so you can work with your Physio to keep you fit and active for longer.
[ii] Jordan, R., Smith, N., Chahal, G., Casson, C., Reed, M., & Sprowson, A. (2014). Enhanced education and physiotherapy before knee replacement; is it worth it? A systematic review. Physiotherapy, 100(4), 305-312.