Lifestyle Changes that Slow Knee Aging
Aging is an unavoidable aspect of life and your joints, especially your knees, undergo this process as well. Osteoarthritis is often the result of an aging knee and usually occurs when one passes the age of 50. It can however happen to younger people too. Dr Tan Boon Cheong, a consultant orthopedic and trauma surgeon at Adventist Medical Center, took some time to shed light on the aging knee and what steps can be taken to both slow down knee aging and treat it.
“Like any moving part in a machine, the knee will undergo wear and tear over the years. The cartilage on the knee joint will become frayed and rough. The damage cannot be reversed or prevented but we can slow down the process with some forms of treatment and lifestyle changes."
"Weight care, avoiding walking on sloped roads and staircases as well as avoiding sports that require jumping are good changes to make. Cycling is encouraged, as the upper part of your body is supported by the bicycle and you do not carry your weight."
Early indications of knee osteoarthritis is pain in the knee during prolonged walking or standing. Dr Tan notes that, “with time, the pain will kick in quicker, until the pain becomes consistent, even while you rest. Then even walking out of the house can be a challenge. Pain or cramps at night will occur, which will disturb one’s quality of sleep,” he said, adding that another common symptom would be stiffness.
“As the wear and tear progresses, the knee will start to show deformity like curving inside. If both knees are involved, then the appearance of an ‘O’ shape can be seen. Occasionally, the knee may have valgus deformity where it curves out, looking like an ‘X’ shape. You may have difficulty straightening and folding your knee fully. A simple X-ray will be good enough although an MRI of the knee may sometimes be necessary. From the X-ray, the severity of osteoarthritis can be easily classified using the simple Kellgren and Lawrence classification (grade 0 to grade 4), with zero being normal and four being severe. From the classification, the mode of management can be determined."
Dr Tan advises that pain relief medication such as paracetamol, codine derivatives, NSAIDs and Cox-2 selective analgesia could ease the pain, but these should not be abused. “Prolonged usage without consulting a doctor will give rise to unwanted side effects such as renal failure, peptic ulcer, heart attack and a stroke."
Dr Tan said surgical intervention was always the last option. “Arthroscopy debridement (keyhole surgery) may work for early knee osteoarthritis but is for short term. The more common surgery performed is a total knee replacement, where the worn-out joint surface will be cut away and replaced with metal implants and a polyethylene insert (which mimics a cartilage) in between the metal surface. The surgery takes about one and a half hours and recovery takes between a month and six weeks."
In conclusion, Dr Tan notes that knee osteoarthritis was not a life-threatening condition but limited one’s daily activities. “About 60% of the patients I see have knee problems and out of every 10 patients, six have knee osteoarthritis. With proper lifestyle changes and treatment, the agonizing pain can be controlled with minimal side effects,” he said.