Ageing and Aching joints

‘As long as I can get around I shall be alright’ is the plea of older people as they keep at bay the fear that one day they will be confined to home, a wheel chair, or even bed. When there’s a twinge in the knee, a sharp shooting pain from the shoulder to the elbow and creaky, aching joints we can panic that ‘the one’ day has dawned. The joints of the body – cushioned with the soft connecting tissue called cartilage – can be summarised under four headings.

* There are the ball and socket joints found in the shoulder and the hip. The ball is part of the long bone in the top of the arm (the humerus). The socket is formed by the shoulder blade (the scapula) The muscles joined to these bones allow a circular movement when they contact. Similarly in the hip, the femur provides the ball and the hip bone of pelvis provides the socket.

* Hinge joints are found in the elbow and knee

* Semi-moveable joints can only move a little – more and you are in trouble.

These are the vertebra of the backbone.

* Immovable joints as the name suggest don’t move at all! You find them in the complicated jig-saw puzzle of the skull, the bones soft when a baby is born, gradually growing stronger and knitting together within a few months.

The advice from the specialists is not to grin and bear pain without knowing what it is, and that means consulting your doctor. A recent American survey suggests that 19% of those interviewed had chronic pain, 50% of them didn’t know what caused it and 84% were getting pain killer drugs from a chemist. Knowing what’s wrong can be good and the prelude to an appropriate treatment. (When I told my doctor about stiffness in my knees and he told me I was in the early stages of osteoarthritis, I felt better already!)

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can help relieve pain from osteoarthritis.

In addition, research has shown that these supplements, particularly glucosamine, can slow, or even stop, progression of osteoarthritis. Experts suspect that other joints would benefit as well. Derived from crustacean shells, glucosamine supplements are thought to replace missing fluid and promote the growth of cartilage, thereby helping to repair joints.