Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Stiff, Achy Joints? Soothe the Pain and Increase Your Mobility

Nearly every adult eventually reaches the point where they are going to experience some morning stiffness, or other aches and pains, especially in their joints.  It may start as an occasional sensation and eventually slip into chronic pain.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the pain and increase your mobility, so you can continue to lead a healthy, active livestyle.

Why Do Joints Get Stiff?

It is very normal to experience some pain and stiffness as you age, because your cartilage, a spongy material at the end of your bones, gradually begins to dry out and get stiff.   In addition, our bodies make less of a substance called synovial fluid, which is the lubricant which keeps our joints moving smoothly.  As a result, it is perfectly natural for us not to be able to move in the same way we did when we were in our teens.

Although you cannot turn back time, you can slow down the aging of your joints by continuing to move as much as possible.  The synovial fluid you have needs you to keep moving as much as you can in order to keep your joints lubricated.  That is why you are likely to feel particularly stiff in the morning, because you were probably moving very little while you slept.

You may also experience joint pain when the weather and barometric pressure in the air changes. It can feel especially severe just before a storm.

Health Conditions Which Cause Joint Problems

In additional to the natural stiffness we may experience from simple aging, we may also develop serious health problems which can make the pain and inflammation worse.  Examples are:

Learn more about knee braces here

Osteoarthritis (OA)
- This occurs when the cartilage begins to wear away, either because of aging or an injury to the joint.  Without the cartilage, the bones rub together and can cause tiny pieces of the bones to break off.  This can make the joint swell, as well as be stiff or painful.  Personally, I have found that it helps my knees when I wear a knee brace if I am going to be doing much walking.  Pictured here is one that I particularly like.  However, I have included a link to the entire Amazon page (Ad) for these braces, because they come in a wide variety of colors, style, brands and prices.  Check with your doctor to make sure these would be appropriate for your condition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) - This is an autoimmune disease which can cause your body to attack the lining (or synovium) of your joints.  It can show up anywhere in the body, but most often in the wrist or finger joints.  You may have seen people with oddly bent fingers, which are a common result of this disease.  It may cause constant pain, or only flare up occasionally.

Ankylosing spondylitis - This can affect your immune system, and cause pain in the spine, hips, hands or feet.

Gout - A build-up of uric acid in your body can result in intense pain, usually in your big toe.

Infectious arthritis - Sometimes called septic arthritis, this form of arthritis can start with an infection which spreads to a large joint, such as your hip.

Psoriatic Arthritis - This is a combination of the skin condition, psoriasis, and joint inflammation. In addition to stiff or throbbing joints in your hands, fingers, feet, knees and other joints, you may also have swollen fingers and severely pitted fingernails.  You might have it on one side of your body, or on both. 

Fibromyalgia - This health condition does not damage your joints the way arthritis does, but it can cause joint and muscle pain, as well as other problems.  It often starts after an illness, surgery or a period of severe stress, and causes people to feel pain more intensely.

Bursitis - This is an injury to the bursae, or fluid-filled sacs that are cushions between your bones.  Overuse or damage to the joint can cause pain in the bursae.

Tendinitis - This is when the tendons that attach muscles to your bones are injured from overuse, and can cause intense pain.

How to Relieve Pain in Your Joints

Regardless of the cause of your stiff, achy joints, there are treatments which can soothe the joints and ease your pain.  You will, of course, want to get a diagnosis from your physician.  You need to know exactly which condition is causing your pain, so it can be treated appropriately. Your physician will also put you on a treatment plan.  However, here are some common treatments which you can expect to receive.

The link to Arthritis Cure
Treating Osteoarthritis - With your doctor's permission, you may want to try over-the-counter pain medications.  In addition, your doctor may try some injections to help reduce the inflammation.  Physical therapy and weight loss can be useful, too.

You may also want to read the very helpful book, "The Arthritis Cure: The Medical Miracle That Can Halt, Reverse, and May Even Cure Osteoarthritis."  (Ad) It is a helpful guide to overcoming this common disease. 

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis - Treatment for this may begin with special medications from your doctor which can slow or stop the disease from continuing to damage the joints.  These medications are called DMARDs, which stands for Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs.  These drugs will attempt to reduce the inflammation in your body.  You can help the process by taking care of yourself. It is important that you eat healthy foods, get adequate rest, and continue to move as much as you can.

Treating Psoriatic Arthritis - These treatments will be similar to those for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and it may be advisable to be treated by a specialist, because not all doctors are accustomed to treating psoriatic arthritis.  You could receive medications which may be administered by mouth, injections or infusions.  The goal is to reduce the swelling and inflammation in your joints.

Treating Fibromyalgia - Because this disease is poorly understood, there is no cure.  Over-the-counter pain medications may help with the pain, but your doctor may try other medications, depending on your range of symptoms.  Relaxation techniques or gentle stretching exercises such as yoga or tai chi may also be useful. 

Home Treatments for Joint Pain

After seeing your physician, and finding out the exact cause of your arthritis or joint pain, you may also want to begin a personal regimen to improve your health and reduce your joint pain.  Here are some of the things you may want to try:

Exercise and Physical Therapy - In most cases, moving the joints will reduce the stiffness in your joints.  It will also help keep your bones strong, improve your balance and help you control your weight.  However, if you are not sure what exercises will be best for your particular type of joint pain, start by having a few sessions with a physical therapist. They can help you work the joint correctly.

Heat Therapy - This can be as simple as taking a hot shower or bath in the morning. The hot water will get blood flowing to your joints, and loosen them.  You can also try using a hot tub, purchasing a moist heating pad, (Ad) or warming a damp washcloth in the microwave for one minute and, when it is cool enough to handle, wrap it in a towel and cover the sore joint for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cold Therapy - You may want to alternate your heat therapy with cold therapy.  Purchase a cold pack (Ad) or even use a bag of frozen vegetables.  Wrap it in a towel to protect your skin, and don't leave it on for more than 20 minutes.  This does the opposite of the heat therapy.  It will slow the blood flow to the area and reduce the swelling.  

Talk to a Nutritionist - Some types of arthritis may benefit from weight loss, because you will be putting less stress and weight on the joint.  Other types of joint pain, such as gout, may be affected specifically what you eat, because certain foods will elevate your uric acid.  Once you are given dietary instructions for treating your joint pain, it will be up to you to make sure you follow it.

Try Alternative Therapies - Talk to your physician about seeing some alternative medical professionals such as an acupuncturist or a chiropractor.  They may be able to help reduce the inflammation in your joints.

When to See Your Doctor or Go to the Emergency Room

Most of the conditions mentioned above are chronic conditions which tend to develop slowly and are treated over a long period of time.  However, there may be urgent situations which require you to go to the emergency room or see a doctor immediately. Contact your doctor if:

You are in extreme pain;

Your pain is the result of an injury;

The joint looks deformed;

You cannot use your joint or it becomes especially hard to move;

The skin is red or warm to the touch;

The affected area of the body suddenly becomes swollen;

You are in severe discomfort for more than three days, and nothing you do seems to help.

Remember, the first place to start is with your personal physician.  You need to know the cause of your pain before it can be properly and effectively treated.  Different types of joint pain require different medications and treatment plans. Once you have a diagnosis, then you should work with your doctor to find ways to reduce your pain and inflammation.

You can find gifts for members of 12 Step groups, retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts:


Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive one weekly email containing the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Etsy or Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credits: The Weather Channel, Amazon, and my Etsy Shop

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Alcohol and Your Aging Body - What to Watch Out For

Enjoy retirement, but don't overdo the drinking!
One side effect of the Covid pandemic has been changes in the amount of alcohol being consumed by senior citizens.  According to a study by the University of Michigan, about 14 percent of older Americans self-reported that they were drinking more, and about 27 percent said they were drinking less.  

In addition, the average person between the ages of 50 and 80 reported that they sometimes drink at least three or more drinks at one time.  This far exceeds the recommended limit of one small drink for women and two small drinks for men in a single day. For those people who have increased their alcohol consumption, or who admit they are drinking more than the recommended limit, what effect could this have on their health?

Senior Citizens Do Not Process Alcohol Well

Do you feel like you are more prone to hangovers today than in the past?  That is not surprising, because the older we are, the less we are able to process alcohol, and doctors estimate that the biological change begins at around age 50.

Your body has less muscle as you age, and because muscle stores more water than fat, you have less water in your body.  As a result, the alcohol you drink is not diluted as much as when you were in your twenties or thirties.  This means that if you are given a blood alcohol test by a police officer, you are more likely to have a high blood alcohol level.  

The reduced muscle in your body is not the only cause of a high blood alcohol level, however.  As you age, your stomach and liver do not produce as much of an alcohol-digesting enzyme called ADH.  Since women have less ADH than men to start with, they have an even harder time eliminating the alcohol from their system as they age.

We Have a Difficult Time Judging the Effect of Alcohol on Us

We may think that the alcohol we are drinking is not affecting us.  After all, we may not be drinking as much as we did 20 years ago, so there shouldn't be a problem.  Right?  And, we may tell ourselves that we feel just fine.  However, our self-assessment could be completely wrong.  Our perceptions are failing, along with our balance, our reflexes, our eyesight and our hearing.  

Because of our inability to judge our own sobriety, we may believe it is safe for us to drive, even when we are not really capable of safely handling a car.  (By the way, the same is true when we take certain medications.  We may believe our faculties and reflexes are not impaired, when they actually are.)

Alcohol Dehydrates Us, and We are Probably Already Dehydrated

Many older people already fail to consume enough water during the day, leaving them slightly dehydrated.  Try pinching the skin on the back of your hand for a couple of seconds, and then let go. The longer it takes to fall back into place, the more dehydrated you are.  This is a problem for senior citizens, even when we are sober.

Alcohol intensifies the dehydration in our body.  Even though we may think that the beer or cocktail we are consuming would help hydrate us, it really does the opposite.  The alcohol we drink is actually pulling water from our system, which is why you may experience that dry cottonmouth feeling in the morning.  

Notice how much more you urinate when you are drinking alcoholic beverages?  That urine is the water you are losing from your body. 

Too Much Alcohol May Speed Up Brain Aging

As long as you stick to one drink for women and two for men (and we're talking normal drink sizes, not supersize ones), then you are probably safe.  However, if you go beyond that amount, researchers have discovered there is a significant loss in the volume of the frontal cortex of the brain in heavy drinkers.  

What does the frontal cortex do?  It helps us control our impulsiveness and compulsive behavior.  So, the more we drink, the more our frontal cortex shrinks.  This makes it harder to control our impulsiveness and compulsive behavior, which causes us to drink more.  Our brain ages even faster.  It becomes a vicious cycle.

Too Much Alcohol Can Worsen Up to 200 Medical Conditions

We all know that alcohol can cause liver disease.  However, it can also worsen cancer, especially oral cancers.  It can raise your blood pressure (and you thought it would help you "relax.")  It increases your stroke risk, worsens diabetes, and is unhealthy for anyone dealing with an immune system disorder.

Excessive drinking can also make it harder to get good quality sleep.  You may initially fall asleep, but then wake up just a few hours later, disrupting your rest for the remainder of the night.  

Try Cutting Back on Your Drinking

While a small amount of alcohol probably will not harm most people, and a little beer or wine may even help your heart, it is important not to push the limits.  Try abstaining from alcohol for a while. If you feel better after a few weeks without alcohol, then this should tell you all you need to know.  

If you discover that it is almost impossible for you to cut back, and you definitely cannot abstain on your own, find a local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous.  There are thousands of men and women who have gone through the same thing, and they will be happy to help you.

Support Others When They Cut Back

One type of behavior that is common in problem drinkers is the tendency to push others to drink excessively.  How often have we all heard people push us to drink "One more for the road?" (Are they kidding?  On the road is the last place you should be if you have been drinking!)

Instead, it is far more thoughtful and considerate to encourage people who are trying to cut back, or totally eliminate alcohol, and to do what we can to help them stick with their program.  If they belong to a 12 Step Recovery Group, like Alcoholics Anonymous, they need to be encouraged to stay with it.  

Whether you belong to AA, or Alanon (an organization for the friends and families of problem drinkers) or you just want to encourage someone else, you may wish to send them a positive note or a gift to support their efforts. 

My husband has been in AA and I have been in Alanon for over 40 years, and we have made many friends there.  Those friends have encouraged us and helped us both through some rough times. When I started an Etsy store, one of the things I wanted to include in my shop was a selection of jewelry, gifts and notecards for our AA and Alanon friends.

You can find notecards and gifts for people in 12 Step Recovery groups. See my collection of AA & Alanon jewelryand gifts. 

The notecard shown here, with the photo of the surfer (which I took in Laguna Beach), has the message on the outside that says "Let Go and Let God."  Inside, the card is blank so you can write your own encouraging message.

Another way to encourage a member who is trying to stay sober or stick with their Alanon program is by celebrating things like their sobriety birthdays or Alanon anniversaries.  You can give members of AA program chips in honor of their years of sobriety, or women in a 12 Step recovery program might appreciate a t-shirt or tote bag.  You can find a variety of items on my Etsy store with other slogans such as "Just for Today," "Let Go and Let God" or "Serenity," all of which are thoughtful ways to encourage people in 12 Step programs.

The important thing to remember is that we all benefit when we encourage and support our friends and loved ones as they try to to stick with a 12 Step program, and any way you can do that is beneficial. 

You can shop for these and other items at my Etsy store at  http://www.etsy.com/shop/DeborahDianGifts 

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about saving money, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Source:  Facts about alcohol and aging from the March 2022 AARP Bulletin.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad or my Etsy Shop, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

You are reading from the blog: http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  My Etsy Store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/DeborahDianGifts