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  • Andrea Cziprusz

Happy Knees: A Guide to Knee Health for Seniors

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of knee pain in older adults. Over time, wear and tear on the knee joints results in a loss of cushioning, which may lead to knee pain, swelling, and/or stiffness.  However, with the right approach, it's possible to maintain healthy knees well into our senior years. 

Imaging of knee

There are a number of modifiable risk factors that can help reduce the likelihood or lessen the severity of knee pain as you age. Embracing these lifestyle changes can significantly improve knee health and enable you to maintain an active lifestyle as you age.

Proactive steps toward happier knees:

Work Toward a Healthy Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight can significantly reduce the strain on your knee joints and lower your risk for knee OA.  If you are overweight, every pound you lose takes 4 pounds of pressure off your knee joints.  So, a weight loss of 10 pounds would relieve 40 pounds of pressure from your knees.  That’s some great motivation to put in the work. Small incremental lifestyle changes can lead to lasting results.

Step up your Nutrition: A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can be beneficial in reducing joint pain and inflammation for individuals with OA.  The Mediterranean diet is a great general guide for prioritizing whole foods, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, and legumes. 

For more info on foods that fight inflammation, check out the article below: 

Stay Hydrated: Hydration is key for your overall health.  When it comes to your knees, proper hydration helps lubricate joints and fight off inflammation. 

To calculate your target water intake, take 1/3rd to 1/2 of your body weight and drink that number of ounces per day. ​Example: If you weigh 150 pounds, aim to drink 50-75 ounces of water each day.​

Build Muscle Strength: Strengthening the muscles above and below your knee joint will help off-set the load on your joint. Focus on resistance exercises that target your hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, glutes, and calf muscles. 

Looking for a great starter routine? Check out the video below.

Keep Moving: If you are already dealing with knee pain, prioritize low impact activities like walking, cycling, and swimming to help protect the cartilage in your knee joints.  Try to incorporate movement into your everyday activities.  Regular exercise helps prevent joint stiffness, maintains muscle strength, and benefits your overall health.   

Prioritize Self-Care: Listen to your body. High impact activities like running, jumping, and stair climbing, as well as deep squatting and prolonged standing can be aggravating for individuals with knee OA.  If these activities make your symptoms worse, try to do them in moderation and spread them out throughout your day or week so you avoid flare-ups.

Ice is a helpful modality to reduce swelling and/or pain post-activity. On the other hand, heat can be used to reduce joint stiffness and pain, or to warm up muscles pre-activity.  Judicious use of anti-inflammatory medications can also be helpful in symptom management with an okay from your doctor.  

If you are looking for additional help, a physical therapist can build an individualized exercise program to improve your strength, flexibility, and activity tolerance, as well as provide guidance on bracing, assistive device use, self-care strategies, and activity pacing. 

Knee pain doesn’t have to sideline you from the activities you enjoy. By taking proactive steps in your daily routine you can keep your knees happy and stay active throughout your senior years. Small changes can lead to big results!  Be consistent with an exercise program, work toward a healthy weight, and prioritize self-care to optimize your knee health.

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