How to Protect Your Aging Knees

Your knees have a heavy load to bear. They support a good percentage of your body weight and have been doing so since you learned to walk. So it's no surprise that as you get older, your knees may experience a little (or a lot) more trouble than they used to.

You might have difficulty standing up from a seated position or going up and down stairs. Your knees may buckle unexpectedly, lock up, or swell and stiffen. How can you keep them safe and flexible as you age?

One excellent way to protect your aging knees is to stay at a healthy body weight. Osteoarthritis is more common in people who are obese. The more weight you carry, the more pressure your joints have to bear. Even losing a small percentage of your body weight can make a significant difference.

Exercise is a boon, too. Physical activity is important to good health, and there's no reason to stop being active just because you have osteoarthritis.

But according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, it's crucial to pay attention to the types of exercise you do and find substitutions if necessary. For instance, middle-aged people whose knee twinges signal the possible development of osteoarthritis should quit the high-impact aerobics classes. Any activity that twists and turns the joints, such as tennis, running, handball, or basketball, should be avoided.

What can you do instead? Low-impact activities with smooth motions are much easier on the joints. If you love aerobics, try taking a water aerobics class. Or swim laps. Bicycling, treadmill walking, golf, and yoga are all great for you and easy on the knees. The earlier you address osteoarthritis, the more likely you'll be able to keep the damage to a minimum and avoid surgery as you age.

If you're at a healthy body weight and engaging in low-impact activity and you're still bothered by stiff, painful knees, there are a number of treatment options available.

One is medication. You can try over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories or supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Another possible therapy is corticosteroid injections. These are usually given in a series over a period of weeks or months and are not to be considered on a long-term basis.

Physical therapy is a great option, as it improves flexibility, range of motion, and strength.

Finally, supportive devices such as splints, braces, or crutches can help.




American Academy of Orthopedics