Aging and your body: stiffness

Stiffness is a common complaint in some of the older patients we see at the clinic.

It is a symptom felt due to a natural aging process that brings about changes predominately affecting the joints and muscles.

The fluid that keeps our joints well lubricated may decrease, the cartilage in these joints therefore is closer together and may rub and start to erode (osteoarthritis) and minerals (like calcium) may deposit in and around some joints (calcification).

In muscles, lipofuscin (a ‘wear and tear’ pigment) and fat is deposited, muscles start to shrink and their fibres are replaced more slowly or are replaced by more fibrous tissue.

Rest assured this is a completely normal process of aging but there are many things you can do to help yourself feel less stiff as you age. Make sure you maintain a good level of appropriate exercise (aimed at strength, balance and flexibility), look after your posture, don’t spend too long in static positions, stretch, stay well hydrated and eat a balanced diet. Some people consider taking supplements.

Physical therapy, such as osteopathy, can be very useful in helping to maintain good range of motion in joints, stretch out tight muscles and break down fibrous tissue deposits. Many patients report feeling more mobile and able after a course of treatments.