Common aging changes in your joints, muscles and bones


Changes in posture and gait (walking pattern) are common with aging. The skeleton provides support and structure to the body. Joints are the areas where bones come together. They allow the skeleton to be flexible for movement. In a joint, bones do not directly contact each other. Instead, they are cushioned by cartilage in the joint, synovial membranes around the joint, and fluid.

Common aging changes include:

(1) Bone mass or density is lost as people age, especially in women after menopause. The bones lose calcium and other minerals. Osteoporosis is a common problem, especially for older women. Bones break more easily, and compression fractures of the vertebrae can cause pain and reduce mobility.

(2) Muscle weakness contributes to fatigue, weakness, and reduced activity tolerance. Joint problems are extremely common. This may be anything from mild stiffness to debilitating arthritis. The risk of injury increases because gait changes, instability, and loss of balance may lead to falls.

(3) Some elderly people have reduced reflexes. This is most often caused by changes in the muscles and tendons, rather than changes in the nerves. Decreased knee jerk or ankle jerk can occur. Some changes, such as a positive Babinskis reflex, are not a normal part of aging.

(4) Involuntary movements (muscle tremors and fine movements called fasciculations) are more common in the elderly. Inactive or immobile elderly people may experience weakness or abnormal sensations (paresthesias).

(5) Muscle contractures may occur in people who are unable to move on their own or have their muscles stretched through exercise.

If you think you cannot do anything about it, you are wrong. Exercise is one of the best ways to slow or prevent problems with the muscles, joints, and bones. A moderate exercise program can help you maintain strength, balance, and flexibility. Exercise helps the bones stay strong....

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