Ease Your Knees
IF you are creaking about on stiff, painful knees, you are not alone. Knee pain can have different causes, and one of the top reasons is osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis).
Osteoarthritis of the knee affects about one in five people over the age of forty-five. This increases to almost one in four people who are aged seventy-five years or more.
While there is no cure yet, some straightforward lifestyle changes and adjustments to your everyday routine can help you stay more comfortable and mobile.
To learn more, I got in touch with Rachael Twomey from the Arthritis Care Helpline. She confirmed that if you are having knee pain, the first step is to have your doctor determine the cause, especially if the problem is severe or persistent.
If your doctor says it is osteoarthritis, here is what is happening. In your joints, a soft but tough tissue called cartilage covers the bony ends.
Healthy cartilage protects the joint from impact and acts as a lubricant. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage wears away and gets thinner. The joint’s shape may change and it can also become inflamed.
As a result, your knees can be painful, especially after weight-bearing exercise such as walking. They can also get stiff if you’ve been in the same position for a long time.
For most people, healthy eating and the right kind of exercise are crucial for managing osteoarthritis pain. You need good nutrition for your joints, and keeping a healthy weight takes a lot of strain off your knees and other weight-bearing joints.
You might be afraid to exercise because you’re worried it might damage your joints. But there are many safe options – even exercises you can do in a chair. Exercise strengthens the muscles around the joint and keeps it mobile. In the longer term, it helps with pain.
Ask your GP what kind of diet and exercise would be right for you. A physiotherapist can also advise on safe and effective exercise.
It also helps to think about your routine activities and how you could adjust them. Try to pace yourself throughout the day: break down your physical tasks, like housework, into smaller chunks. Between each chunk of activity, take a rest.
It’s just as important not to sit in the same position for more than half an hour, because your joints can get stiff. It’s all about finding a healthy balance between rest and activity.
Some people find that a hot-water bottle or heating pad brings relief, while others find a cold pack soothing. (Never put ice directly on your skin, though. Wrap it in a cloth.)
The right type of knee brace might help some people. It’s important to consult your GP or an occupational therapist to make sure you’re using it in the correct way for you.
For guidance on any aspect of arthritis, plus a free booklet on osteoarthritis, call Arthritis Care’s free helpline on 0808 800 4050. Or visit the Arthritis Care website at www.arthritiscare.org.uk for information on living well with arthritis. n