Quite a number of elderly people in Hong Kong are troubled by the wear-and-tear of cartilage in their knees. It is very likely that they will be diagnosed with osteoarthritis if they walk with increasing pain and creaking sound in the joints.
Osteoarthritis is an illness caused by degeneration due to repetitive usage. It is almost an inevitable problem of aging as the protective cartilage at the ends of the bones gradually wear away, resulting in inflammation that causes swelling, pain and stiffness in the affected joints.
People aged 60 and above, or have had bone fractures or joint injuries like meniscus tear would see a higher chance of developing osteoarthritis.
Those who do physical work that requires repetitive actions might overuse their joints, making the problem surface as early as in their forties or fifties.
On top of the knee joints, osteoarthritis is also often noted in hip and finger joints.
Some osteoarthritis patients might reduce their physical activities due to pain in joints. However, this would quickly weaken the muscles, and together with an increased body weight, the condition could worsen.
To reduce the strain on the knee joints, patients should strengthen the quadriceps. A simple thigh-strengthening exercise, which you could do even if you are watching TV, will help.
First, sit in a chair. Straighten your leg and hold for some seconds. Lower it down for a brief rest. Repeat the move.
Those who have hip osteoarthritis should walk with the help of a cane to maintain physical activity and prevent muscles from weakening and joints from deteriorating.
Meanwhile, patients could take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation. They could also consider hyaluronic acid injections to lubricate the joints and reduce discomfort resulting from frictions.
Depending on the severity of osteoarthritis, each injection could last for six months up to one year. In some severe cases, patients would have to consider artificial joint replacement.
Some people might misunderstand that osteoarthritis is a result of calcium deficiency. The vital mineral is unrelated to joint degeneration but an ample intake of it could help prevent a person from developing osteoporosis.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 10
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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