Problems of the Elderly
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 osteroarthritis, which is degenerative arthritis,
most commonly affecting the knees.
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, if there is overweight, or if there is persistent
abnormal posture or activities such as squatting or sitting on low stools,
the condition would become worse.
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. Chronic problems include stiffness and deformity.
best treatment for pain is rest. Depending on the situation, heat
or ice therapy and knee bandage may be used as advised.
for osteoarhritis can only reduce pain or inflammation. It cannot
cure the disease. Common analgesia (e.g. panadol) and ointment (e.g.
analgesic balm) are frequently useful. For more severe pain, non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs which have both analgesics and anti-inflammatory
actions may be used. There are many kinds but invariably they have
side-effects which can include gastro-intestinal discomfort or even
bleeding, renal failure, etc. Therefore, they should be used with
care and according to a doctor's advice.
of steroids into the joint can relieve pain but it would aggravate
the arthritis. It should not be used unless absolutely necessary.
may be required for certain severe cases of deformity. These include
arthroplasty and knee replacement therapy.
Prevention and self-care
degeneration of the knee joint cannot be reversed. However, with appropriate
self-care and preventive measures, the process can be slowed, and it is
possible to reduce pain and prevent relapse and deformity. To protect
the knee joint, the most important is to reduce the wear and tear process:
weight bearing of knee joint. For the obese, reduce weight.
carrying heavy objects. Use a trolley.
prolonged standing or walking. Use walking aid if required.
putting the knee joint in one position for a long time e.g. sitting
on low stool or squatting.
proper balance between work and rest. Watch out for and be mindful
of joint pain.
knee exercise and thigh muscle strengthening exercise can protect
the knee joint. Consult a doctor or physiotherapist for advice.