Ease Your Knees

The People's Friend - - Health - Our Health Writer, Colleen Shannon, looks at ways to feel bet­ter.

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

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