How To Prevent Knee Pain in Old Age
Experiencing pain in the joints is an inevitable part of aging. As mobile human beings, we place various strains and pressures on our joints and musculoskeletal systems as we move around in everyday life, whether it is regular day-to-day functioning or whether we are athletes or engaging in exercise. As we age, the flexibility and strength of our muscles decrease, and it becomes harder to protect our joints.
Knee pain is a common complaint that is seen in people of all ages but can more commonly affect the elderly, especially as the knee joint wears over time. Knee pain can be debilitating and limit movement, which can contribute to chronic pain.
In this article, we will discuss what types of knee pain are most common in elderly people, what the potential causes and risk factors for knee pain are, symptoms to look out for, and when the best time is to seek professional help for your knee pain.
What Are the Most Common Types of Knee Pain in Elderly People?
The most common types of knee pain center around strained ligaments, tears in cartilage, tendonitis, and worn cartilage resulting in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of knee pain in the elderly.
Osteoarthritis is commonly experienced in the elderly, as it is a direct result of wear and tear of the cartilage between joints over time. As the cartilage wears away, your joint is subjected to more friction, which results in pain.
Osteoarthritis is often coupled with a weakening of tendons, ligaments, and muscles. These factors all combine to produce a gradual deterioration of the cartilage in your knee, which manifests as a variety of symptoms which can cause chronic pain and affect your daily life and mobility.
What Are the Symptoms of Knee Pain?
Osteoarthritis can appear with a host of symptoms that are an indication that something is wrong. The most obvious is experiencing pain in your knee joint, especially when placing weight onto your knee.
It is important to note that you may experience pain as well as other symptoms in one or both knees. The symptoms may also be worse in one knee compared to another, particularly if one knee has a past injury.
You could also find that your knee is swollen, stiff, and has a limited range of movement. You might also have a hard time fully straightening the knee. Other symptoms of osteoarthritis can include redness in the knee, weakness and instability (particularly when walking or standing for long periods), and popping or crunching sounds when trying to move your knee.
Another tell-tale sign that you may be suffering from osteoarthritis in your knees is that you may find your knee pain tends to be much worse towards the end of the day. Knee pain may also cause you to hold your weight or walk differently to compensate for the discomfort you are feeling, which can lead to challenges and discomfort in other joints, such as the hips.
What Causes Knee Pain in Old Age?
Knee pain in old age can be triggered by mechanical causes or by medical conditions. Additionally, there are several risk factors that can heighten your likelihood of experiencing knee pain and can worsen it.
Mechanical causes of knee pain include injuries such as falls or direct blows to the knee, ACL injuries (or any other ligament injuries), fractures, dislocations, and overuse injuries.
It is also possible that an old injury could still cause knee pain in older age. Although an injury that you may have sustained when you were younger appears to have healed, the damaged tissues are more vulnerable to instability, strain, and degeneration as we age.
Osteoarthritis is also a mechanical cause of knee pain, which is caused by the gradual degeneration of the cartilage that protects the inner workings of your joints from friction. As this cartilage gradually wears away with age, the likelihood of joint or knee pain increases.
Medical conditions that can cause knee pain
Various medical conditions can also be responsible for joint and knee pain. The most common of these conditions is rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder.
Conditions such as gout and lupus can also cause knee pain, mainly owing to the fact that these conditions are inflammatory, which causes swelling and pain in the knee joint.
Risk factors for developing knee pain
Various elements of your circumstances can make you more predisposed to experiencing knee pain.
One key risk factor is being overweight. Excess weight on the body puts additional stress on the joints, particularly the knees. Being overweight also increases the risk of osteoarthritis, which can degenerate the cartilage in your joints and cause additional pain.
Having sustained previous injuries to your knee can also put you at risk of developing chronic knee pain and osteoarthritis later in life. Previous injuries weaken the tissues in and around the knee, which destabilizes the joint and impairs the integrity of the knee, leaving it more prone to additional injury and chronic pain. Weakened and inflexible muscles also contribute to this, as the stronger your muscles are, the more they are able to absorb impact on your joints and buffer against injuries.
Other risk factors for experiencing knee pain include:
- Genetics – having a family history of arthritis
- Repeated stress being placed on the knee from high-impact activities such as running
- Having a bone or joint deformity
- Women are more susceptible
How to Prevent Knee Pain in Old Age
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. There are many things you can do before knee pain sets in to try and prevent it from happening at all.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is a good way to prevent inflammation from occurring in your joints, which can contribute to knee pain and make osteoarthritis worse. Avoiding overly processed foods that are high in refined sugars and carbohydrates is a good way to start. It is also important to be cognizant of having too much meat and dairy, as these foods can also contribute to inflammation.
An anti-inflammatory diet is primarily plant-based, featuring plenty of vegetables, fruits, beans, fish, and whole grains.
Another way to mitigate knee pain is to maintain a healthy weight, which goes hand-in-hand with eating a healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the impact placed on the cartilage between your joints, which reduces the likelihood of experiencing pain, especially in your knees.
Low-impact and targeted exercise is a great way to maintain joint health. To focus on your knees, concentrate on building up muscle strength around your knees, such as your thighs and calf muscles. These muscles help support your knees, and if they are strengthened, then less strain will be placed on the cartilage in your joints.
When to Seek Professional Help for Knee Pain
If you notice that your knee pain is starting to inhibit your mobility or daily functioning, it is a sign that you may need professional help to figure out what may be causing the pain. Experiencing pain while walking, when standing for a long time, or feeling stiffness after being in the same position for a little while are signs that you might be experiencing knee strain.
Some people experience knee pain so severe that it affects their ability to sleep. This is another sign that you should have a medical professional assess your situation so that they can provide you with the correct tools and aids to get you functioning normally and without pain.
Experiencing Knee Pain? Contact OPA Ortho Today
If you are looking for more information on knee pain, its causes, and ways to reduce or avoid it together, OPA Ortho can help. We have plenty of resources to assist you in understanding why you may be experiencing knee pain, as well as methods and treatments to get you moving again with less pain. Contact us today to see how we can help you.
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