Cases of osteoarthritis are quite common, with the condition having the potential to reduce the quality of life for the sufferer. Knee osteoarthritis, for example, plays a key role in the degeneration of knee joints. Aside from joint age and usage, another key factor affecting joint health is obesity, with data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that 2 in 3 obese people suffer from knee osteoarthritis.
Lifestyle modifications and carrying out home improvements can help reduce the effects of knee osteoarthritis, with the main objective being to reduce pain while retaining full function of the knee, or maintaining as much function as possible.
Lifestyle modifications that can reduce the impact felt by the knee joints include weight loss and making changes to the way you exercise, for example cutting out any running or jumping activities and replacing them with cycling and swimming. Reducing any other activities that impact the knees, such as walking upstairs, and losing weight for those who are overweight, can also help the knees. If you experience pain or inflammation of the knee, resting that joint for a period of between 12-24 hours could already help alleviate those symptoms.
Being overweight or obese significantly increases the workload carried out by various joints, especially the hips and knees. Losing just a little weight can help ease this workload and go some way to alleviating joint pain. Nevertheless, any attempt at weight loss should be carried out properly to ensure the safety of the patient, by making lifestyle modifications with regard to daily diet and exercise regimes.
Exercise can help strengthen muscles while improving movement capabilities and flexibility. Exercise is also increasing the strength of muscles surrounding the joints. This is especially true with regard to the muscles surrounding the knee joint, which can improve the knee’s stability. Forms of exercise suitable for those patients with damaged knees include walking, cycling, aquatic walking and swimming. Exercise can also help reduce joint pain. If, however, that pain occurs or worsens during exercise, the exercise regime may be too strenuous. In such cases, doctors and physical therapists should be consulted for appropriate advice and assistance on which forms of exercise are most suited to each individual.
The use of assistive devices to help patients with damaged knees when walking can make the act of walking easier by reducing the workload and impact on the knee and hip joints. Examples of such devices include walking sticks, specialized footwear and knee supports. These can all help in different ways, but should only be used under the guidance and supervision of medical professionals. Walking sticks, for instance, should not be held on the side opposite to the leg in pain. Additionally, the type of walking stick utilized may differ from patient to patient, and while knee supports can offer effective relief for knee joint pain, they shouldn’t be used continuously for extended periods of time.
Relieving joint pain through the use of heat or cold on the affected area is a simple process that can be carried out at home.
Heat alleviates pain by reducing friction within the joint itself, while cold eases pain due to the way in which it reduces muscle tension and inflammation. Using creams and gels can offer temporary pain relief from knee joint damage. Some of these products cause numbness – through heat or cold – that replaces the aching sensation. Also, some creams contain ingredients found in medication, such as anti-inflammatories that can be absorbed through the skin. They can be especially effective in the treatment of joints that are close to the skin’s surface, such as knee and finger joints.
Medical Doctor, Faculty of Medicine, King Chulalongkorn memorial Hospital, Chulalongkorn University,