As you’ve gotten older, your knees may have started to hurt. You don’t want to rely on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories; they can cause organ damage and other side effects. What can you do to keep your knees in good shape so that you can continue to enjoy activities such as dancing, gardening, and playing sports?
Your knees have an incredible job: They support much of your body weight. Every step you take puts a huge amount of pressure on your knees — about one and a half times your weight.
You’ll take a lot of steps during your lifetime. Did you know that by the time you reach 80, you’ll have walked around the earth approximately five times? When you think about it that way, it’s not surprising that you may develop knee pain as you age.
The board-certified physicians at Urgently Ortho in Scottsdale, Arizona, see patients every day with knee pain from injuries as well as chronic conditions such as arthritis. They’re experts at diagnosing and treating both types of conditions.
Knee pain can result from an overuse injury in which you damage a muscle, tendon, or ligament, or a sudden accident. Chronic knee pain as you get older is usually the result of osteoarthritis. Your menisci – tough, fibrous tissues that lie between the knee bones and prevent direct bone-on-bone contact – get thinner, more brittle, and can tear more easily as you age. Your articular cartilage, which protects the kneecap, can experience the same deterioration. Your cartilage can eventually disappear, resulting in excruciating bone-on-bone pain that requires knee-replacement surgery.
But that doesn’t have to be your fate. You can take steps to preserve your knee health and potentially avoid major surgery such as knee replacement.
Common-sense strategies for taking care of your knees as you age can help protect them so they’ll carry you successfully into old age.
You’ve heard the phrase “Use it or lose it.” That applies to your joints. Exercise is a critical element in staying healthy and mobile. But as you age, you’ll likely need to modify your exercise regimen. Your joints are not as strong as they were when you were 30. Protect them from overuse injuries. Adapt your exercise to your changing ability.
It’s time to give up the deep squats you did when you were a 25 year-old weightlifter. If you were a runner, you may need to switch to rowing or cycling. Isn’t that a better alternative than wearing out your knees by the time you’re 65? If you love the water, swimming is a great non-weight-bearing exercise. Gentle and senior yoga help maintain your range of motion and flexibility.
If your BMI is more than 25, you’ll do your knees a favor by slimming down. You may think that being 20 pounds overweight isn’t that excessive, but each extra pound adds four more pounds of pressure on your knees, so you really have 80 pounds of surplus pressure on your knee joints. Over time, it hastens cartilage damage and deterioration.
Standing for long periods on concrete or another hard surface can make your knees hurt. Use cushioned inserts, or, if your condition warrants, get prescription orthotics that provide extra support. It’s easy to lose your balance on stiletto heels; choose a lower heel and go for comfort.
Whether it’s from arthritis or an overuse injury, your knee pain can be mitigated when an Urgently Ortho physician explains the most effective treatment for your condition. If it’s a minor injury, you may simply need the RICE strategy: rest, ice or heat, compression, and elevation of your leg, along with a temporary brace. If your range of motion is impacted, your doctor may prescribe physical therapy to help you regain it. Injections can provide significant pain relief if your pain is severe; they give you time to think about longer term strategies such as platelet-rich plasma treatment or, if needed, surgery.
Check out our office hours and call Urgently Ortho for an appointment for all of your musculoskeletal needs.