Creaky, painful joints aren’t just the bane of seniors.
A growing number of people in their 20s and early 30s have joint problems.
Genetics can play a part, and so too can injury and being overweight or obese - which is increasingly affecting the young.
Joint problems may be an indication of underlying health problems like rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, so any unusual pains, loss of movement and inflamed - hot and red - joints should be checked out by a doctor.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Two of the most common conditions are degenerative disc disease [DDD], typically a condition you might see in your 60s, but now particularly common in the mid-20s. DDD is a degeneration of the discs in the spine - the cushion that sits between the vertebrae - and a common cause of back pain.
Also, shoulder problems, mostly due to poor posture, and the increasing use of computers, laptops, smart phones and tablets. This is playing a significant role in these problems.
For some people, joint pain seemingly comes out of nowhere.
This if often the result of poor posture or degenerative changes in the joint that can cause bony growth, cartilage damage and tendon tears.
You can help protect your joints with a healthy diet, regular exercise that's not too high impact, avoiding sitting all day, and maintaining good posture.
DON'T IGNORE THE IRRITANTS
Seek advice straight away. In many cases, just a simple workplace adjustment or a few exercises can cure the problem. But sometimes, treatment is needed to alleviate the pain.
If the joint is injured, rehabilitation is vital. After injury, the body has a weakness. Rehab allows the injured body part to become stronger than it was, to prevent recurrence.
Pain is telling you something. If you ignore it, you might be lucky and the problem goes away, or you might end up with a serious injury or chronic pain.
DON'T SKIP WARM-UPS
Exercise is vital, and so are warm-ups.
It simply involves increasing blood flow to muscles and joints, and generating heat into these areas. It allows joints to move more freely, and muscles to stretch more easily - this makes injury far less likely.
CURE OR COPE?
Not all joint problems can be cured. Arthritis, for instance.
Damage may be irreversible. However, there is still a lot that can be done to help the area, for example, by reducing load on the joint.
This can be done by improving biomechanics of the joint and the other joints around it. Stretching muscles next to the joint and improving posture can also help a lot.
A balanced diet, with plenty of vitamins, minerals, iron, protein and calcium, helps keep bones and soft tissues in good order.
Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for joint health, as they have anti-inflammatory properties. Oily fish is one of the main dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which most people under-consume.
Hydration also helps keep joints lubricated, as well as supporting muscle function - which in turn, support the joints - and helps maintain good circulation.
Research suggests some people experiencing sore, inflamed joints may benefit from increasing their omega-3 intake.