Knee Problems and Dealing with Them
Aging Matters

How many seniors deal with knee pain and problems? Today in the U.S., joint replacement surgeons perform close to 700,000 knee-replacement surgeries. It the most frequently performed joint-replacement surgeries of our time and by 2030, we can expect that number to grow to 3.5 million. But patients under 60 will account for over 50 percent of the growth.

I am one who experiences knee problems and avoids stress-related workouts and activities that require running and jumping and a lot of bending. I engage in more moderate activities like walking. But there are a few more that I've read about which are light on knee-stress such as biking and swimming.

Since standing and walking puts one and a half times the body weight on the knees, according to Stephen Kelly, a joint-replacement surgeon at New England Orthopedic Surgeons, that's equivalent to a 200-pound person putting 300 pounds of pressure on the joints. And climbing stairs doubles that physical force. Kelly believes a modest weight loss can reduce pain.

A few things that can help.

Supervised physical therapy can strengthen leg muscles and increase the range of motion and flexibility to better support the knees. At the beginning of therapy, a professional will look at the leg to see how well the knee bends, straightens, and moves. They also notice if you have difficulty maintaining balance if you have pain in the knee if it hurts to move the lower leg back and forth, if the muscles are weak, and if a person has difficulty standing on one leg.

After an assessment, a therapist will give instructions on stretch exercises like hamstring curls, single leg dips, step-ups, straight leg lifts, wall squats, and balance exercises. But before trying any of these, check with your physician and physical therapist. Tell the therapist if something hurts and stop if you feel a lot of pain.

For pain relief, use a unloader knee brace to help make the joint feel more stable and allows a person to do everyday activities without pain, especially if arthritis is on the inside of a knee. Or you can try acupuncture needles which can provide some relief from osteoarthritis in knees.

Some patients receive cortisone injections directly into the knees. The medication reduces inflammation and pain, but doctors advise that you should not receive more than three or four a year. Another type of injection is the hyaluronic acid which replaces natural lubricants with a gel-like fluid and provides up to six months of relief.

If injections are not your cup of tea, try combining two over the counter drugs by taking 500 milligrams (mg) of glucosamine hydrochloride and 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate three times a day. It could take about six months to feel relief.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, and editor at Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.



Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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