Preventing Knee Arthritis
If we live long enough, is it inevitable that, sooner or later, we will all develop arthritis in the knees?
We associate arthritis with aging, but, in fact, arthritis does not discriminate: it affects men, women, and children of all ages and ethnic groups. In the U.S., alone, it ranks number one as the leading cause of disability. More than 50 million people struggle with the pain and loss of function that comes with this disease. That said, knee arthritis, otherwise known as osteoarthritis, is more prevalent as we age. Those over 60 typically have or are beginning to experience the symptoms that result from a lifetime of wear and tear.
As we begin to age, every little twinge or popping or crackling sound that comes from our knees almost instantly conjures up images of knee replacement surgery in our near future. While that may or may not be a realistic assessment of our own current condition, knee replacement surgeries in this country have skyrocketed, with more than 600,000 being performed each year. Most of those surgeries were the result of damage done by osteoarthritis.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is referred to as the “wear and tear” arthritis. 60 plus years of the kinds of demands we place on our load-bearing joints, particularly the knees, can rack up a lot of wear and tear. Almost everything we do that involves changing position, standing, walking, running, climbing stairs and dozens of other movements, all require movement in the knee joint. A lifetime of that cannot help but gradually bring about the breakdown of the cartilage in the knee joint which aids movement and prevents the bones from rubbing against each other.
Eventually, when there has been sufficient degeneration of the protective layer of cartilage, bones do begin to touch and rub together. If you have experienced this, you know how painful that and the accompanying inflammation can be.
While aging is the most significant risk factor when it comes to developing osteoarthritis, it is not the only one. Other common influences include:
- Genetics – genes can be a factor in the development of a wide range of diseases and conditions and osteoarthritis is on the list
- Being a woman – hormonal changes, specifically, the drop in estrogen levels as women age, is believed to be the main reason that more women seem to develop osteoarthritis than men, even though men have traditionally been more active and placed more demands on the knee joints
- Overweight – the more weight a person carries increases the pressure on the knee joint which accelerates the rate of degeneration of the cartilage
- Accidents and injuries – anytime there is an injury to the bone it increases the likelihood of arthritis developing in that area
Preventing the Development of Knee Arthritis
Unfortunately, the human body was not designed to last forever and there is, currently, no way of preventing the eventual degeneration of the knee joint. Perhaps that may change with some sort of breakthrough discovery in the future, but, for now, the best that we can do is to slow the progression when it comes to the risk factors that we have some control over. Gender and heredity are beyond our control, but we can do much to maintain healthy body weight and thereby reduce the pressure on the knee. We can also make the effort to avoid injuries as much as possible, especially when engaging in sports and activities where the right equipment and proper training are known to reduce risk.
If you have questions about arthritis in the knee or any other orthopedic concerns, the physicians and staff of South Island Orthopedics are very experienced in a wide range of orthopedic conditions and are committed to providing personalized care in a state-of-the-art facility. To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.
Posted in: Knee