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Taking Care of Older Joints (and Younger Joints, Too)

Many people experience increasing musculoskeletal joint stiffness as they get older. Shoulders, knees, and ankles don't seem to be as flexible as they once were. It seems more difficult to bend over and pick up a dropped object. It may be uncomfortable to turn your head around to see the car in the next lane that's right in the center of your driver's blind spot. The bad news is that, left unattended, your joints do get stiffer as you get older. Left on their own, your joints will likely lose full mobility. The good news is there's plenty you can do about it. You can regain and retain much of your youthful flexibility if you are willing to be proactive.

First, some basic physiology. Joints such as the shoulder, knee, and ankle are lubricated by synovial fluid. Synovial fluid keeps joints moist, provides oxygen and nutrition, and washes away toxic end-products of normal metabolic processes. The joints in your spine are also lubricated and maintained in this way. But aging reduces the amount of available synovial fluid. Also, normal aging processes increase the viscosity of the remaining synovial fluid. You have less available lubricant and the lubricant that you do have is thicker. The result is stiffer joints, pretty much from top to bottom.

The specific countermeasure to such physiologic aging is to keep active. This is a pretty challenging prescription in a world in which most of our time is spent seated. Our bodies were designed for hard, physical work. But as we've transformed from an agrarian to an industrial society, and more recently from an industrial to a service-based society, the nature of our work has changed dramatically. The vast majority of our work is now done seated at a desk. When we're not typing on a computer keyboard or reading a spreadsheet, we're at home watching TV, playing games on our computing devices, or very rarely, reading. None of these activities involves active motion. If we want to take care of our bodies, we're going to have to be proactive about creating the time to do so.

We're going to be creating time for exercise. Almost any type of exercise causes synovial fluid to be more available, pumping synovial fluid into joint spaces and helping to lubricate joints.1,2 Exercise increases your internal core temperature, which in turn decreases the viscosity of synovial fluid. The overall result is increased joint flexibility. This benefit is often experienced immediately. The benefit will be long-lasting provided that you continue to exercise regularly.

Thirty minutes of exercise per day, 5 days per week, will assist most of us in maintaining as much joint flexibility as possible. Alternating a cardiovascular exercise day with a strength training day is an optimal program.3 Yoga provides a total body workout which incorporates cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility. Ultimately, the types of exercise you do are less important than the long-term consistency. Regular, vigorous exercise, done over months and years, will provide great benefit, not only in terms of improved joint flexibility, but also in terms of overall health and well-being.

1Seco J, et al: A long-term physical activity training program increases strength and flexibility, and improves balance in older adults. Rehabil Nurs 38(1):37-47, 2013
2Garber CE, et al: American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 43(7):1334-1359, 2011
3Micheo W, et al: Basic principles regarding strength, flexibility, and stability exercises. PM R 4(11):805-811, 2012

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  • "I love it there so polite and right to the point never pushy or rude vet respectful. I wouldn’t go anyplace else. Love them all!!"
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  • "Dr. Ho and Dr. Q are caring and compassionate doctors. Their goal is to make you feel great. They take the time to listen to your concerns and address them. I would definitely recommend these doctors!"
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  • "I got refer from a Dear good friend Jennifer which ive been having problems with my neck n knees. I would definitely recommend Pinnacle Wellness they have a great friendly staff n Doctors are great! I've learned a lot about our bodies n etc. I will continue seeing them again !!! My adjustments are great!"
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  • "We have been going to Pinnacle Wellness for over 3 months now, back pain has stopped 100%. We are still blown away by how amazing Dr. Q and Dr. Ho are. We are blessed they came into our lives and have truly added so much to our knowledge about our bodies and even personal growth and development. Pinnacle Wellness is nothing short of a breath of fresh air. Isabelle at the front desk always makes our day. If you are looking for a chiropractor that truly cares for your well being, my family would definitely recommend you to look no further and make Pinnacle Wellness your destination. I had just learned to live with and accept my daily back pain. Thanks to Pinnacle Wellness our lives have been forever changed and look forward to seeing the happy faces of the staff and will be enjoying a pain free life thanks to our journey with Pinnacle Wellness."
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  • "If you have back and/or neck trouble and have never been to a chiropractor before, then this is the place for you. I was referred here by my wife who has been seeing the doctors for several years. Since starting my adjustments I sleep better and feel better all around, and no it doesn't hurt. Currently I am recovering from tennis elbow and bursitis which the doctors are helping me recover by using a massager on my arm when I visit, even my physical therapist was glad they were helping out."
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  • "I have been a patient of Pinnacle Wellness for many years. They have a great, friendly staff and Doctors who truly care about there patients. I would recommend this place to anyone with back or neck pain."
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  • "The staff is extremely friendly and personable when you enter the facility. They make you feel like you are a part of the family. Our kiddos get adjusted too and for our infant it helped him to crawl properly when he was having difficulties or crawling abnormally. It is a vital part of our healthiness and we would recommend them to everyone!"
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