By the time we reach our 60s, most of us will be feeling the joint pain and stiffness that come with arthritis. But there’s plenty we can do to alleviate the symptoms and go on living well.
We sat down with Dr. Edward Blocker, an orthopaedic surgeon here at Beaufort Memorial, to ask a few questions about how we can best deal with arthritis as we age.
Is arthritis part of the natural aging process?
The odds of developing arthritis in your lifetime are virtually100 percent. Like the rubber in your car tires, the shiny white cartilage cushioning in your joints wears down over time, causing pain, stiffness and swelling.
However, this is not to say that everyone will have major symptoms from arthritis. You may start feeling symptoms in your 40s, but they probably won’t slow you down. About the time most people reach their mid-60s, the pain may be bad enough to seek medical attention.
What is the most common form of arthritis in older adults?
Osteoarthritis, sometimes called wear-and-tear arthritis, is the most common form, and one of the most frequent causes of physical impairment among older people. The arthritic joint I see most often in my practice is the knee, then hips, fingers and shoulders.
Is there anything I can do to prevent osteoarthritis or its progression?
Motion is good for the joints, but limit it to low-impact exercises, like walking, riding a bicycle and swimming. Doubles tennis, pickleball and golf are good, too. Avoid running or contact sports that can injure the cartilage. If you like working out at the gym, include training machines that strengthen the muscles around the joint.
Maintain a healthy weight to reduce any extra forces on your joints. It’s better to eat a sensible diet that includes calcium and vitamin D than to take supplements. Dairy products are absorbed better by your body than calcium pills.
What treatments are available for osteoarthritis?
Inflammation of the joint causes the symptoms of arthritis, so we usually suggest that patients start out trying over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers like Advil, Aleve or Motrin as long as they don’t have a medical condition that prevents them from doing so. If that doesn’t help, we would prescribe stronger prescription anti-inflammatory drugs.
The next course of action can be a cortisone injection.
Arthritis in the knee also can be treated with viscosupplementation, a kind of lubricant that is injected directly into the knee. This usually involves a series of three to five injections a week apart.
If, despite these conservative measures, the pain begins limiting even simple activities, such as climbing stairs, shopping or gardening, it may be time for total knee replacement surgery.
For more information on joint pain, arthritis and pain management, click here.