Joint Pain In The Over 50s

06 Nov 2018

Published in: Blog

Osteoarthritis - A Debilitating Condition....

Osteoarthritis is a debilitating condition and the most common cause of hip or knee pain in people over the age of 50. This type of arthritis is mainly caused by wear and tear to the cartilage that lines the hip or knee joint. It can lead to the bones sometimes rubbing directly against one another.

As a consultant orthopaedic surgeon specialising in hip and knee surgery for over 10 years in the NHS and at Nuffield Health Wolverhampton Hospital, Mr William J Hart explains what to watch out for and what steps can be taken.

“If you start to feel stiffness or pain in any joint for more than a few weeks, osteoarthritis is a possible diagnosis. Initially the plan would be to see your GP, for an assessment and possible further investigation. Recommended treatment may mean a referral to a physiotherapist or an orthopaedic surgeon.

Worn cartilage can cause pain, swelling, weakness, limited movement in the affected joints. This will lead to difficulty with every day activities such as walking, sleeping, getting in and out of the bath or car, going up and downstairs or even fastening your shoes. The recommended treatment will depend on the severity of the disease. In the early stages this can range from a programme of weight bearing exercises, to weight control, activity modification, medication and supports. Ultimately surgery can become an option when the arthritis progresses.

Osteoarthritis is a frequently occurring condition and can run in families. People are more likely to be at risk of arthritis if their parents have had arthritis, especially if they required surgery at a younger age.”

Reassuringly Nuffield Health consultant Mr Hart advises, “The process of cartilage breakdown in the joints may be helped through physiotherapy. This will keep the hip or knee mobile, the muscles strong and so preserve the function of the joint. Symptoms of early arthritis appear as pain and restriction, often in the groin or knee. This results in not being able to straighten the knee fully and physiotherapy can help to restore and maintain this straightening function. Physiotherapy can also be extremely helpful if the patient has an isolated area of arthritis behind the kneecap.

Exercise and weight control are essential to delay the need for surgery. Patients can take advice from their GP or physiotherapist to help with these aspects. Mr Hart advises, “Before embarking on activities such as a long walk or a round of golf, occasional painkillers or an anti-inflammatory can be useful. For higher impact sports, such as skiing, the use of a knee brace or specially fitted insoles can help people to continue with these activities. In general terms, higher impact activities are those which should be avoided.

When non-operative measures have been exhausted and it is apparent that symptoms are not settling, surgery can become an option. Depending on the extent of the wear in the knee, keyhole surgery to tidy up any torn cartilage may be recommended. As symptoms worsen, more extensive surgery may be appropriate. A variety of full and partial joint replacements are available to help deal with arthritis in the hip and knee. Decisions are a balance between quality of life and the wish to defer surgery. Many people choose surgery as they wish to get on with their lives, rather than watch the months roll by until the pain becomes unbearable.”

Private healthcare means that you don’t have to wait for surgery, if this is what is needed to get you back to an active life.

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