A joint is where two bones meet. Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joint tissue which can be acute or chronic. In the elderly, the commonest type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is degenerative arthritis, most commonly affecting the knees.
As part of the aging process, joint fluid decreases. With wear and tear, the cartilage becomes thinner. If the muscles and tendon protecting the joint become weakened, together with overweight, persistent abnormal posture or activities such as squatting or sitting on low stools, the condition would become worse.
The commonest symptom is pain or discomfort, especially after walking, e.g. walking downstairs or carrying heavy load. Occasionally there may be redness, swelling and warmth. Patients who have this disease for a long time may experience joint stiffness or joint deformation.
- When the affected area has symptoms of acute inflammation such as redness, swelling, and warmth, ice therapy can be used to reduce the symptoms. If the pain in the affected area is mild and there are no acute symptoms of warmth and redness, heat therapy can be used to relieve the pain.
- Medication can be used to reduce pain or inflammation. Pain killers or analgesic balms can be used to reduce pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to reduce inflammation and pain, but the side effects of medication include gastro-intestinal discomfort or bleeding. Therefore, patients should use them with care and according to a doctor’s advice.
- However, if a patient’s knee joint continues to suffer from pain or the pain affects the patient’s daily activities, the patient should seek medical advice as soon as possible to arrange appropriate treatment.
Prevention and self-care
Although osteoarthritis of knees cannot be cured, appropriate treatment and self-care can reduce the symptoms of joint pain, improve joint mobility, reduce barriers of daily activities, as well as prevent relapse:
- Maintain an ideal body weight. Minimize weight bearing of knee joint.
- Avoid carrying heavy objects. Use a trolley if necessary.
- Avoid prolonged standing or walking. Use a walking aid with appropriate height if required.
- Avoid putting the knee joint in one position for a long time e.g. sitting on low stool or squatting.
- Ensure proper balance between work and rest. Watch out for and be mindful of joint pain.
- Appropriate knee exercise and thigh muscle strengthening exercise can protect the knee joint. Consult a doctor or physiotherapist for advice.