As people age, we often see them complain of hurting and stiff joints, achy knees and bent backs. One of the most common ailment that the elderly experience is osteoarthritis, specifically with the knee.
Many people would consider knee osteoarthritis a given when we age. However, this condition isn’t so common because of age, but another reason all together!
What is it?
Osteoarthritis, commonly known as “wear and tear disease,” occurs when the cartilage in between bones in your body’s joints erodes.
Normally, healthy joints are protected and cushioned by a layer of cartilage. This cartilage, such as the articular cartilage of the knee, helps the bone glide smoothly across one another.
However, osteoarthritis causes this cartilage to break down, eventually causing the joint to look more like this:
The loss of cartilage can cause many issues and symptoms:
- Swelling and inflammation
- Stiffness, especially in the morning
- Bone spurs
- The final stages of OA can actually cause bones to rub together with nothing in between.
So, what can we do about it?
Osteoarthritis, unfortunately, can’t be reversed, but symptoms can be lessened and the rate at which cartilage erodes can be slowed if caught early.
For simple treatment and relief, our chiropractor, Dr. Shawn Johnston, uses laser therapy to reduce swelling in the joints and help encourage the growth of new tissue to reinforce the knee. Second, we can use soft tissue massage to reduce swelling and bring blood flow into the area to promote healing.
However, the best thing that can be done for OA is to be proactive! This comes in two forms: stability/mobility training, and proprioception.
Your body is made up of pairs of stable and mobile body parts. Stable body parts normally act as “slaves” to the mobile parts and remain stable in everyday movement and activity.
For example, the knee is a stable joint, which means it shouldn’t be moving and acts as a slave to the ankle: wherever your ankle goes, your knee should follow.
Unfortunately, many musculoskeletal ailments stem from lack of awareness of mobility/stability, and thus body parts are being used too much and others aren’t being used enough.
With knee osteoarthritis patients, we often see a lack of mobility in the hips and ankles when walking, which causes all the brunt and impact from walking to be taken by the knees.
This actually causes osteoarthritis in the knee more than simply age!
Dr. Johnston works with these patients to educate them on how to move and work in order to utilize the correct joints and muscles in the correct ways.
Proprioception is the awareness or you and your body parts in space. Proprioception is the ability to know how your joints move, what muscles move what parts, and how they interact together.
Many elderly patients have decreased proprioception, and thus are prone to injury when they misuse joints and muscles that aren’t meant to be used for different actions.
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