If you’ve reached the age where aches and pain are a common occurrence, you’ve probably dealt with knee pain before. This isn’t conjecture — the National Institutes of Health estimates that frequent knee pain affects approximately 25% of adults. Knee pain is common in people over 50 and especially common in those over 65 years of age. The US has an aging population, so the percentage of people dealing with knee pain will probably go up in the coming years.
While the prevalence of knee pain may be somewhat alarming, it’s pretty common knowledge that you might have to deal with some knee pain as you get older. But what, exactly, is happening to your knees as the years pass by? Are you looking to learn more about how to keep your body healthy as you age?
We have answers to these questions. Steven E. Nolan, MD is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience. He has received numerous top-surgeon awards during his career and is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and a diplomate of the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery. Here, he offers his best advice for living with aging knees.
Your muscle strength hits its highest point at around age 25. It then basically plateaus through your 30s and 40s before declining; the decline occurs more rapidly for people who don’t exercise. All told, your muscles can produce about 75% of peak force by the time you hit 65 and may actually shrink by 40%.
This is important for a couple of reasons. First, weaker muscles may limit you from some activities or up your risk of injury if you still choose to participate. Also, muscle weakness puts stress on your knee joints, which pick up the slack your muscles leave behind. Overall, exercise is the best way to make sure your muscles and joints stay as healthy as possible.
A few extra pounds
It’s common to put on a few pounds over the years, but there is a strong connection between obesity and knee pain. Consider this — each pound over your ideal weight puts four pounds more pressure on your knee joints. When put in this perspective, a moderate gain in weight, like 15 pounds, is equal to 60 pounds of pressure on your knees. Getting to a healthy weight will immediately help your knees, and you can use the exercise recommended previously to help those muscles out as well.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. The CDC reports that about 30 million adults in the United States have it, and it’s one of the leading causes of disability in adults. About 34% of those over 65 are impacted.
Knee joints are the culprit again with osteoarthritis. The cartilage in a joint provides cushion and facilitates the knee’s range of motion. Over time, that cartilage starts to wear down and the joint becomes harder to move. This can lead to the following symptoms:
- Pain or aching
- Decreased range of motion (or flexibility)
Light exercise and weight loss help prevent osteoarthritis and the disease can be managed if it has already begun to affect your daily life.
Age may also increase the probability that you need knee surgery. If that’s the case, Dr. Nolan is here to help as an expert in minimally invasive knee arthroscopy. To learn more, contact our Sugarland office today or request an appointment online.