Every step can be painful when your knees are hurting. But there are ways to deal with this
Now in her late 50s, Madam Betty Chan is beginning to have difficulty getting around. “My knees hurt when I go up and down the stairs. And when I have been seated for some time, like in the cinema or after a long journey in the bus or train, it is painful trying to get up from my seat,” says the housewife, whose only exercise is walking her dog for 30 minutes, twice a day.
Joint specialist Lim Yii Hong notes: “It is not uncommon for people of all ages to suffer from knee pain.”
In those who are younger, it is more likely to be the result of an injury during sports or exercise, he explains, while osteoarthritis is the main cause in people above 60 years old.
However, the Clinical Director of medical centre Inliven, who specialises in treating joint conditions, points to leading a sedentary lifestyle as a major reason for knee pain. “Lack of exercise weakens the muscles supporting the knees and as a result places stress on the joint.
“Excess weight also stresses the knee joint. Weight loss is largely a matter of managing one’s diet. Aerobic exercises, like walking, cycling and swimming, will help to control your weight as well as improve your heart function,” says Dr Lim.
One visual clue that a person’s knees are not functioning as well as they could are bowed legs. Legs bow because the body is compensating, by shifting weight away from the painful areas of the knee, he explains.
“Increasingly”, he adds, “we’re seeing more people under 60 years old getting osteoarthritis.”
The disease causes a gradual breakdown of cartilage in the joints. Bones start to rub against each other, causing pain. People move less to avoid the pain and soon, their mobility becomes restricted.
While many older people who suffer from knee pain seem to accept the pain as part and parcel of getting old, “this doesn’t mean that you will suffer from it”.
“There are preventive measures which can be taken. And you should start on them when you are still young – in your early 20s. Osteoarthritis can be treated and people can return to their usual activities if it is properly addressed.”
Generally, there are exercises which can relieve stiffness, and increase and maintain muscle strength to support and protect joints.
His advice: “Use it or lose it. If you don’t use those muscles, in time you will lose the use of them. So get moving and walk tall.”
“Lack of exercise weakens the muscles supporting the knees and as a result places stress on the joint”
Dr Lim Yii Hong, Clinical Director of Inliven
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis of the knee, there are several effective non-surgical treatments available to ease the pain, so one can get on with life.
The treatment prescribed by your doctor may include a combination of weight loss, physiotherapy, knee braces, insoles, injections and medication.
Knee replacement surgery is usually recommended when there is irreversible damage to the bone and the proper alignment of the knee cannot be restored by non- surgical treatments. Most patients require rehabilitation after knee surgery.
Source: BRIDGE magazine (Jan/Feb issue) by South West CDC. Reproduced with permission.
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