Humans are funny. We spend nearly 40 years maturing to our peak of physical and mental ability, and then it all immediately starts going wrong. As we get older all sorts of body parts start to protest about doing their jobs, often quite loudly.
Some of it cant be helped, of course, but other things can. A lot of the problems we suffer as we age are the result of abuse weve inflicted on our bodies when we ere younger. Unfortunately when were younger the consequences arent obvious, but a few years down the line they are. Of course by then its often too late to do much about it.
A common health problem in older people is arthritis. There are several kinds of arthritis, with different causes, but the most frequent is osteoarthritis; its estimated that 30% of women, and nearly as many men, suffer from it by the age of 65.
Osteoarthritis can be caused by an old injury but normally its a result of simple wear and tear on the joints. To a large degree this is normal; during our lifetimes our bodies do an enormous amount of work, which can be anything from typing and sewing to moving heavy furniture, and it all involves movement in our joints.
Its no surprise that after a while the cartilage that lubricates them begins to get a bit worn, and allows the bones themselves to come into contact. Thats when osteoarthritis starts to set in. It can be extremely painful, and prevents sufferers from carrying out many activities.
Normal wear and tear contributes to osteoarthritis, but its now known that there are aggravating factors that can bring it on earlier or make the effects much more severe. Hard physical work is one of them; applying extra stress to the body wears it out faster.
The other is a group of issues which health professionals class as biomechanical irregularities.
This covers a variety of issues such as bad posture, high arches or overpronation of the feet when walking or running. Any of these conditions forces the joints to move in a way thats slightly different from how theyre meant to.
Think of what happens if you run your car on underinflated tyres. Instead of the tyres wearing slowly and evenly over the full width of the tread, giving good grip and a long tyre life, wear happens much faster at the outside edges of the tread pattern. The result is tyres that dont do their job as well and dont last nearly as long. Well, its just the same with your joints.
Your knee, for example, should be passing directly above your big toe with every step you take, and your body weight will act on the centre of the knee where it can be easily absorbed. If you overpronate, though, your knee passes just inside your foot.
That moves your weight from the centre of the knee to the inside edge of the joint. The first result is that youll feel pain beside the knee as the muscles work harder to stop it buckling; later youll find that the inside edge of the joint, where the cartilage is thinner, has been worn down by the abuse and osteoarthritis is developing. Anything that stops your joints working normally carries the same risk.
The good news is that by taking a few precautions when youre younger you can help your joints work properly and seriously reduce the wear on them. Not only will this delay of prevent arthritis later in life, itll cut down on pain and muscle tiredness right now.
One of the most important things you can do is improve your posture. If you work at a desk, make sure that you sit with your feet flat on the floor, your wrists supported just in front of your keyboard and your back straight; that will help avoid wrist and spine problems later. If you tend to slouch, learn to keep your shoulders back and your torso upright.
If you overpronate or have high arches its important for you to remedy that with proper foot care. An important aspect of that is the use of orthotic insoles to support your weight properly and encourage your ankles to pronate normally. Custom insoles will also help with posture, which takes some of the load off your spine too.