It’s an inevitability of age; the older we get, the more susceptible we are to ailments. Step forward arthritis: easily one of the most common complaints of the more mature among us.
Causing inflammation and pain in the joints of the body, osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease stemming directly from general wear and tear. And affecting 350 million people worldwide, it is not one that should be taken lightly.
In a nutshell, what happens as a result of walking, exercising and just moving around throughout our daily lives is the mammoth toll on cartilage, the connective tissue on the end of bones that cushions joints and helps their smooth movement, which, in turn, can then cause chronic inflammation.
Without cartilage, bones then come into direct contact with each other, resulting not only in further pain but bony projections known as osteophytes. More recent studies have even suggested it is a far more complicated disease than was once thought, also involving bone and marrow.
In a particularly cruel twist of fate in today’s ever-evolving world, there is still no cure for arthritis. That's why the importance of improving the function - especially in the knees and the spine - cannot be emphasised enough.
As Practitioner at ProBack Clinics, Dr Nate Bogedain DC explains,
“knees are transition joints, meaning as we walk, run, and jump the forces from the feet are transmitted up to the spine in order to disperse them, adapt, and allow us to continue our activities without worry.”
This means, therefore, that the knee is doubly at-risk, as if other joints stop “functioning normally … we stop absorbing force”, which “places an extra burden on the knee.
Yes, you may well consider surgery, but unlike its increasingly popular and highly effective hip replacement counterpart, knee replacement deserves far more consideration – not least because it is a highly complex operation that will not last forever. Furthermore, evidence points to a simpler operation and better overall outcomes the longer it is delayed, as well as the need for subsequent replacements becoming greatly reduced. According to Arthritis Research UK, a knee replacement is also not as effective in the earlier stages of the disease, meaning it may well be prudent to consider alternative methods.
LUCKILY, THERE ARE AN ABUNDANCE OF ALTERNATIVE METHODS:
A range of treatments can help with the pain accompanying arthritis, including both pain-relievers and anti-inflammatories. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most effective as they encompass both elements and are available both over-the-counter and in prescription form. Some examples include ibuprofen and aspirin. You can also take joint
supplements, but make sure to discuss this with your doctor first as they may interfere with other medication.
Contrary to popular belief, abstaining from exercise when you have painful joints is actually counterproductive as research repeatedly shows that pain and stiffness worsen the less active you are. Building stronger muscles around your joints through exercise helps cushion your joints more, thus relieving the pain of arthritis and preventing the condition from getting worse. Aerobics, cycling, swimming and balance exercises, such as yoga or Pilates, are all great options.
If you’re carrying some extra pounds, taking steps to slim down will always be beneficial as it will help take extra weight and pressure off knees and other joints. Eating a well-balanced diet – with plenty of calcium – will also do wonders, as well as a high intake of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, fish and healthy fats, such as omega-3, found in the good kind of fatty foods. Anything loaded with anti-oxidants is great as these protect healthy cells and helps slow down the process of ageing.
Both stabilising and compressing the kneecap, a knee brace, which is commonly made up of both rigid and flexible materials to provide both support and comfort, has been proven to help those with arthritis postpone the need for surgery – without compromising their day-to-day activities, as it pushes the knee back into normal alignment - relieving pain and allowing ligaments to heal.
A study led by Boston University School of Medicine found that patients who wore a knee brace said pain was reduced by 40% over six weeks, according to a WebMD article.
Furthermore, a knee brace will also help shift the weight off the most damaged part of the knee, enhancing both the ability to move around and a much-needed confidence boost in the latter years of life.
Whoever said your later years had to be anything less than perfect? Hold on tight and brace yourselves for the ride of your life – it’s only just beginning.