Living With Knee Osteoarthritis: Tips for Seniors

Updated on January 17, 2018

Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is only one form of over a hundred types of arthritis. The degenerative disease characteristically involves the breakdown of the cartilage that protects the knee joints and acts as its shock absorber.

As the cartilage thins out and deteriorates, pain and inflammation in the knees increase because of the friction between the shinbone (tibia) and the thigh bone (femur). The cartilage gradually deteriorates due to:

  • Wear and tear

  • Aging

  • Overuse

  • Acute injury that did not heal well

  • Improper alignment

At least 27 million individuals suffer from osteoarthritis. Knee OA, in particular, is common among the elderly population and can be associated with chronic disability. At least 10% of men and 13% of women above 60 years old develop symptoms of this condition.

Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis

Your knee joints might be showing signs of deterioration if you have difficulty in walking, climbing the stairs or being mobile. Knee osteoarthritis can interfere with your day-to-day activities because of the stiffness in the joints following a long period of rest.

You might be forced, however, to rest longer because pain can also increase with activity. Your knees might also feel tender and become swollen, making bending or straightening the knee difficult.

There is no known cure for knee osteoarthritis. The management is often focused on measures to relieve knee pain, stiffness, and discomfort, and mitigate the deterioration of knee joints.

Coping with Knee Osteoarthritis

The first thing that you need to do is to get an accurate diagnosis. If you have the signs and symptoms, you’ll need to get a proper physical examination and tests from a doctor. Seek a rheumatologist or an orthopedic surgeon whose expertise lies in arthritis care.

Once it has been determined that you have knee OA, explore the treatment options with your doctor. These might entail:

  • Wearing knee supports or braces

  • Taking anti-inflammatory medication or pain relievers

  • Formulating a proper diet and weight loss plan

  • Enlisting in an exercise program

  • Knee replacement surgery, in extreme cases

Keep moving and exercising

Contrary to the notion that exercise might worsen the condition, staying active actually helps with your pain, your independence, and your quality of life. Make sure, however, that you have a realistic physical fitness plan that includes stretching and low-impact routines, which you can do daily. You must also strike a balance between physical activity and rest.

Eat right

Have a diet that will supplement the needs of your bones and joints. Eat plenty of foods that are rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3. Cut down on salt and sugar, and avoid food ingredients that might trigger inflammation, such as saturated fats, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and refined carbohydrates. Stop drinking caffeine or alcohol as these can weaken the bones.

Sleep well

Around seventy percent of people with osteoarthritis suffer from sleep problems, making them more vulnerable to pain. Factors that might affect your sleep include:

  • Mentally agonizing over your condition

  • Taking certain medications

  • Underlying condition like sleep apnea

  • Having an irregular sleep schedule

Consult a doctor to determine if you do have sleep apnea or prescribe you with better medication that won’t affect your sleep. You might also want to seek the help of a professional for dealing with emotional or mental anguish, depression, and stress. Follow a regular schedule for sleeping to condition your body.

Lose or maintain your weight

Extra body weight puts more pressure on your knees. If you do your exercises regularly and indulge less in foods with high calorie, then you can maintain an ideal body weight that won’t aggravate your knee osteoarthritis.

Manage your pain

There are plenty of medications for dealing with osteoarthritis pain. However, in the absence of a drug, you can still manage pain using heat or cold therapy, which have no known side effects. Use a heat pack to relieve stiffness in the joints and use a cold pack for pain and swelling.

Use supportive devices

People with knee problems have critical issues with balance, which can lead to falls and injuries. If necessary, you might want to consider using a walking stick to aid in your movements and prevent falls.


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