Joint pain: how to help your hinges


Creaking and aching joints seem to go with the territory in middle age and beyond. But that doesn’t mean we should all shrug our shoulders (ouch) and accept the pain and discomfort this can cause.
There’s plenty we can do to improve and prolong the health of our joints; taking up exercise, losing weight and even looking at something as simple as the way we carry ourselves when we walk.
Joint pain – also referred to as ‘arthralgia’ – can occur in any part of the body, but it’s most common in the hips and knees. This may be the result of injury, infection or disease, but can be down to nothing more than general wear and tear.
Anti-inflammatory medication and gentle stretching exercises can help, along with physiotherapy treatment. But there are also small but significant lifestyle changes we can all take, such as the use of simple orthotic shoe insoles – which adjust a misaligned gait.
Consultant orthopedic surgeon William Dunnet believes that such timely interventions as soon as – or even before – any niggling joint pain arises, can make a huge difference in both the short and long term where successful treatment is concerned.
Take knee pain, for example. “A good physiotherapist will look at your gait and then assess whether the way you walk is causing a problem,” he explains.
“The position of the ankle affects the load bearing of the knee. If that is out and needs adjusting, then orthotics placed inside the shoe will be hugely beneficial.
“Poor gait can cause all manner of problems in middle age and beyond, so having this looked at early can prevent a great deal of unnecessary pain and discomfort.”
But what about preventing such problems from occurring in the first place – or holding them off for as long as possible?
Mr Dunnet believes the first thing you can look at is your weight. “It’s common sense,” he says. “Losing those extra pounds takes pressure off the joints and can be a very successful cure or preventative measure.
“Then there’s exercise. It might appear counter-intuitive on the face of it, but joints really do love to be used.”
Swimming, cycling and walking all help nourish the cartilage surrounding our joints. “As you move, the cartilage acts like a sponge, compressing and decompressing,” explains Mr Dunnet.
“I’m a great believer in looking after your joints through weight reduction and regular exercise. And if you do have a little arthritis, starting a routine can make a quite astonishing difference.
“I encourage my patients to apply sound common sense – eat a fresh and varied diet, with processed foods kept to a minimum, to help keep their body well-nourished and their weight down.
“I urge them to exercise little and often – and to get orthotics if they need them. Very often that is enough to make a difference.”
Joining Benenden Health gives you access to a wide range of advice services and information for every part of life, including instant access to a health-concern advice line, which will direct you to the best recommendations if you do have persistent joint problems.
Benenden Health is the UK’s most trusted healthcare provider, as voted in the Moneywise Awards for the last two years. It is a mutual, not for profit organisation, offering discretionary services at a flat rate of £7.80 per person per month.


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