Juice Up Your Joints

Don’t let creaky joints stop you in your tracks! If you feel a bit stiffer when you wake up in the morning, it's normal. We all lose flexibility gradually with age, but just a few minutes of simple limbering exercises can warm up your joints and help you ease into the demands of your day. And to make it even easier, you don’t have to get up from the bed to do them!

Being stiff is something we associate with old age since it affects the way we look, the way we feel and the way we move.  We need flexibility to perform everyday activities with ease - to get out of bed, lift children and sweep the floor. We need it to bend and lift, twist and turn, and reach overhead.  If you have limited range of motion, these movements become more restricted.

Your ability to stretch depends on genetics as well as daily habits.  Technically, flexibility is the range of motion around a joint.  It is determined by the "architecture" of the joint (the shape of the bones and cartilage) and the length of the muscles and ligaments crossing it.  If range of motion is limited so the joint can't bend or straighten, it is said to be "tight" or "stiff." 

Stiff, achy joints are also the hallmark of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease affecting the cartilage that acts as padding between the bones of the joints.  Over time, normal wear and tear causes the cartilage to break down, reducing the cushioning in the joints and causing pain, inflammation and swelling.  It usually occurs in the weight bearing joints of the hips, knees and feet, as well as in the neck, lower spine and hands. If your hips and ankles are stiff, your stride becomes shorter and there is less natural bounce when walking, jogging or dancing.  If your hands are painful, it becomes more difficult to open a jar or lift a heavy tea kettle.

Although the tendency is to minimize movement to avoid pain, this unfortunately can lead to more pain and stiffness. These limbering movements will actually diminish the discomfort, release lubricating fluid into the joints and increase mobility.  Instead of jumping out of bed in the morning, take two minutes to do these gentle range of motion exercises on the side of your bed to ease into your day. 

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