We have all experienced it: those aches and pains after a workout, or just when we have been sitting for an extended period of time. As we get older they seem to hit harder and last longer. Sometimes the soreness seems to be so deep it is coming right from the bone or joint. According to research at the Johns Hopkins Medical School, even joints damaged by arthritis causes negligible frictional resistance. So where do they come from, and is there anything to do to relieve the pain?
When we get soreness in our joints, the real cause of stiffness and pain is in the muscles and connective tissues that move the joints. If we don’t use those joints regularly, we lose the range of motion that the joint originally had. Similar to the difficulty in opening and closing a rusty door that hasn’t been used, using joints that do not remain flexible will cause pain in the muscles supporting the joint and discouraging us from using them further. If we don’t always keeping the joint loose and flexible it will cause the surrounding muscle tissue to become short and tight.
We can attribute a few causes of this muscle tightening and contracting. When the joints are inactive and as we age, ligaments and tendons become less elastic. The tendons are the most difficult to stretch, as they are densely packed fibers. Then there is a layer of fibrous tissue surrounding the groups of muscles, blood vessels and nerves, called the fasciae. They, like ligaments and tendons, are made of collagen. Even though they are the easiest to flex, if the fasciae is not kept limber and flexible it will shorten and cause pressure on the nerve pathways.
Many aches and pains will be caused by nerve impulses traveling along these pressured pathways. Incidentally, the fasciae connect muscles to other muscles, whereas ligaments join one bone to another bone, and tendons join muscle to bone. But they are what we try to target when we try to keep the joints from getting stiff and sore.
This can be described as what we normally call “wear and tear” of the joints. Although most of us pass it off as simply getting older, there is no reason to simply attribute it to old age and give up. There is quite a lot we can do to maintain the joints through proper diet and exercise. There are other means of exercise that will be less taxing on the joints instead of running or jogging. Try swimming as part of your aerobic training, or perhaps cycling.
We obviously did not get into some of the other joint problems that people have. These may be from injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto-immune disorder, or osteoarthritis, which involves degeneration of cartilage in the joint. But these conditions require medical attention and do not come under the realm of what we are covering here: the typical stiffening of the joint do to inactivity and lack of exercise. We can reverse the aging process by recognizing what the real issue is and that we can do something about it.