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How to Manage Knee Pain in Your Golden Years

Overview

Knee pain at old age is a common complaint faced by people crossing age 50. Pain in the knee does not need to be due to age; it can also be due to previous injury, overuse, infections, or arthritis.

The knee joint’s function is to bend, straighten, and bear the body’s weight. The joint consists of four bones: femur or thigh bone, tibia, patella or kneecap, and fibula. All these bones together provide stability and weight-bearing capability to the knee.

Our knee absorbs a considerable amount of pressure with every step we take. This pressure builds all through our lives with regular wear and tear, making the joint muscles and ligaments weaker. The knee has two shock absorbers called menisci, which start to deteriorate, and so does the articular cartilage.

More About the Subject

Knee pain is one of the most common bone conditions that affect many people every year. Statistics say as many as 100 million Americans live with chronic pain. Knee pain is the second leading cause of chronic pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of severe joint pain among adults with arthritis aged 45 to 64 is 30.7% and 24.3% among adults aged 65 and older.

Knee pain is often associated with aging, underlying health conditions, general wear and tear, lifestyle, diet, occupation, sports trauma, and other injuries.

Genetics also plays a role in the genesis of knee pain. Osteoarthritis in the family and overweight are crucial factors that result in knee pain at an older age. Swelling in the knee joint, fever, and redness are a few observed symptoms in the early stage of knee pain. Regardless of the cause of your knee pain, it can be very painful and debilitating in some cases.  

The treatment for knee pain depends on the underlying causes, which can be mechanical causes such as injury or rupture or medical conditions, such as gout, arthritis type, infection, etc., discussed in the causes section below in detail. Understanding how to manage knee pain in your golden years, taking the right precautions, and on-time diagnosis is beneficial.

Fortunately, with the right medical assistance and treatment options, you can manage the knee pain and discomfort in your golden years to a great extent.

What are the Symptoms of Knee Pain in Old Age?

The signs and symptoms vary depending on the cause and severity of knee pain. The pain varies from a minor ache to severe.  Few symptoms frequently observed are:

  • Swelling in the joints and adjacent parts
  • Stiffness or pain on moving 
  • Redness and feeling of warmth to touch
  • The problem in straightening or bending the knee and inability to walk properly
  • Continuous pain in the joint 
  • Discomfort leading to limping
  • Fever in cases of knee infection 
  • Osteoarthritis symptoms include stiffness in the affected joint, inflammation, and a sensation accompanied by a cracking sound.

When to Visit Your Doctor?

There are numerous reasons for knee pain.  Delaying the treatment or diagnosis gives rise to serious complications. Knee pain is evident and grows as we age.  If there is a constant feeling of discomfort while standing, walking, or just moving the knee, it is a wake-up call for you to visit your healthcare provider. 

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What are the Causes of Knee Pain in Your 50s?

Knee pain develops gradually and can result from an injury, ruptured ligament or cartilage, arthritis, etc. Other than mechanical causes, medical conditions like gout, infection, and arthritis types also lead to knee pain. 

The mechanical causes of knee pain include:

  • Injuries: If you have suffered from a minor or major knee injury at a young age, it can be the reason behind your knee pain. Knee injury affects your tendons, bones, cartilage, and ligaments that form the knee joint. 
  • ACL injury: The anterior cruciate ligament is among the four ligaments that join your shinbone to your thigh bone. A tear or injury in the ligaments is referred to as ACL injury. If you have been a basketball or a soccer player at your young age, an ACL tear can cause knee pain. 
  • Fractures: Fractures can occur if you have fallen from a height or met with an accident. In severe cases, the pain can prolong until old age.
  • Torn meniscus: The menisci are shock absorbers and protect the knee from jerks and sprains. Due to overweight or extensive workload, the cartilage can tear and cause knee pain. 
  • Dislocation: When the knee joint displaces from its original place, it can lead to knee dislocation. The blood flow to the leg is interrupted due to dislocation. 
  • Osteoarthritis: It is the most common cause of knee pain in people over 50 years of age. The patient diagnosed has stiffness around the joint in the morning hours, pain all around the knee, and inflammation. 

Medical conditions causing knee pain are:

  • Osgood-Schlatter’s disease: A bump is formed below the knee cap, which swells and becomes painful during exercise.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: It is an autoimmune disorder that can cause pain in any joint in your body. 
  • Gout: When uric acid crystals build up in the joint, it causes gout, which can cause pain.
  • Septic arthritis: It occurs when the knee joint is infected. The common symptoms of the condition include pain, swelling, redness, and fever. It causes severe damage to the knee cartilage.

What are the Risk Factors during Old Age that Causes Knee Pain?

In addition to the weakening of bones due to depletion of calcium content in the body, other factors can also lead to knee pain. 

  • Overweight: Excess weight exerts a lot of stress on the knee joints. It also increases the risk of osteoarthritis and weak cartilage. 
  • Lack of muscle flexibility and strength: Weak muscles cannot protect joints from injuries, and lack of flexibility increases the risk to a greater level. 
  • Previous Injury: Fracture or wear and tear of knee muscles due to any prior accident increase the chance of another injury.

What are the Treatment Options for Knee Pain Due to Ageing?

Diagnosis of the cause of knee pain helps your doctor in providing the appropriate treatment. The treatment might start with strengthening your muscles or treating any foot problems which can affect the knee. If the pain is due to underlying causes, it can take days for the treatment to be successful. In cases of unbearable pain and severity, your doctor might recommend going for surgery. Various forms of treatment for knee pain are:

  • Medications: The treatment to cure mild knee pain starts with taking oral medications. It is usually prescribed to treat inflammation of the joints. If pain persists, further treatment is required.
  • R.I.S.E: The abbreviation stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It is a natural remedy practiced in households to relieve knee pain. The treatment can be done individually without any help.  To start the healing process, resting more and taking a break from daily activities is recommended, followed by ice on your knee in areas where the pain is felt to decrease inflammation. The third step is using a compression bandage to prevent swelling and for knee alignment. Do not wrap the bandage too tight as it may stop the blood flow to your knee. The last step is keeping your knee at a particular elevation for it to rest and reduce inflammation. 
  • Physiotherapy: It is a physical form of therapy aiming to make your muscles strong and smoothen the knee motion. The therapy tailors a program of exercise to relieve your knee pain. 
  • Surgery: When the pain is severe and all other treatments exhaust, the doctor recommends surgeries at the crucial stage. Surgical treatments for knee pain and knee injuries include arthroscopy, meniscus repair, ACL reconstruction, patellar/quadriceps tendon repair, partial knee replacement, and total knee replacement.

Other home remedies. Food elements like curcumin, ginger, and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce arthritis pain.

What are the Preventive Measures to be taken for Knee Pain in your Golden Years?

Growing old does not in any way mean that you have to let knee pain be a part of your life. Taking preventive measures and living a healthy lifestyle even after crossing 50 should be an ideal motto. There are many ways to prevent knee pain, which can make you feel young again. 

  • Strengthen the muscle: Regular exercises like walking, water exercises, and other sports help to prevent knee locking and stiffness. 
  • Keep a check on your weight: Maintaining weight is recommended for all ages. Ideal weight reduces the stress and pressure placed on the knee and reduces the chances of arthritis. 

Conclusion

Knee pain can cause discomfort and stop you from doing different activities you would have planned to do after your retirement. Therefore, it is highly suggested not to ignore your knee pain and get it treated soon so that you can enjoy the fruits of hard work in your golden years.

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