The number of men and women seeking arthritis treatment increases significantly with age. One reason for this is because of the ways that growing older impacts the bones and joints, especially those in the hands and wrists. Here’s a closer look at three ways that the natural aging process can contribute to painful joints.
Decrease in Cartilage
When two bones meet in a joint, the ends are protected by a slippery substance called cartilage. This covering allows for smooth, easy joint movements. With age, the chemical makeup of cartilage starts to change, becoming less flexible and more susceptible to physical stressors. As the cartilage degenerates, bone rubs directly on bone, resulting in painful, arthritic joint inflammation.
Changes in Ligaments
Ligaments are the tough, fibrous connective tissues responsible for holding joints in alignment as they move, connecting bone to bone around the joint. As the body ages, the ligaments lose elasticity, making joint movement more restrictive. Normal hand and wrist motions begin to feel stiff and “creaky,” especially in combination with cartilage loss as described above.
Loss in Bone Density and Strength
Osteoporosis, or decreased bone density, makes older patients more vulnerable to breaks and fractures that could require hand surgery. Men and women with rheumatoid arthritis carry a higher risk for developing osteoporosis, both due to the mineral-leaching medications needed to treat RA and the tendency toward decreased activity in RA patients due to joint movement becoming so painful.
How Arthritis Centers Help
Although nothing can stop the aging process completely, eating right and staying active can help joints and bones stay strong and healthy, keeping age at bay a bit longer. With a little extra care and attention, taking good care of your body may help slow the progression of your arthritis symptoms.