As people grow old, they are likely to experience joint pain or arthritis. However, doctors say this does not have to be the case. Early lifestyle and healthy changes can go a long way in avoiding joint disorders.
The human skeleton offers support to the body and gives it a structure. Joints can be described as the part where bones join. Joints allow for movement of the body by making the skeleton flexible.
Bones at the joint are not in direct contact with each other. They are cushioned by cartilage, fluid, and synovial membranes around. The body relies on muscles for the strength and force needed to move.
Bones, muscles, and joint changes end up affecting how a person walks and their posture. This effect may cause them to move slowly and become weak.
Loss of bone density and bone mass is common in the elderly. It is more common in women who are past menopause. As people age, their bones lose important minerals such as calcium. The human spine is made up of several bones also known as vertebrae. A gel-like cushion is found between these bones. This cushion is known as a disk.
As people age, these disks lose fluid to become thinner. This causes the trunk of the body to shorten. Bones become thinner due to loss of mineral content. The spinal cord/column becomes compressed and curved causing changes in posture. Foot arches tend to disappear causing a slight decrease in height.
Loss of minerals causes the long bones in the legs and arms to become brittle. However, their length remains the same. This s the reason the legs and arms tend to appear longer compared to the trunk that shortens.
As people age, the fluid found in the joints reduces. This causes joints to become less flexible and stiff. Cartilage at the joints starts to rub together and will eventually wear away. In joints such as the shoulder, there may be mineral deposits.
Degenerative changes occur at the knee and hip joints as a result of cartilage loss. Joints found in fingers lose cartilage causing the bones to become slightly thicker. A common change is the swelling of the joints known as osteophytes.
With old age, bones tend to be more brittle meaning they can easily break. Shortening of the spine and the trunk causes a decrease in the overall height. Pain, stiffness, deformity, and inflammation may occur as a result of joints breaking down.
A person’s posture may also become stooped. Hips and knees become more flexed. The pelvis widens, the neck tilts, and the shoulders may become narrow. Movement slows down and becomes limited.
The arms don’t swing as much as they used to. All these changes cause reduced energy thereby causing older people to easily get tired. Lastly, endurance and strength change and muscle loss resulting in reduced strength.
Joint pain depends on factors such as the history of trauma or injury, the level of physical activity of an individual, family history, and environmental factors. There are two types of arthritis:
There are two types of osteoarthritis;
Symptoms of osteoarthritis
Symptoms include stiffness and pain in the affected joints during and after movement. Swelling and tenderness are also common. Affected areas may experience a lack of flexibility with a grating sensation that comes with cracking or clicking sounds.
In the beginning, symptoms mostly occur in the morning but as the condition gets worse, a person may experience these symptoms even when they are resting.
Osteoarthritis may worsen because of the following;
Treatment of osteoarthritis
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis mostly affects the smaller joints found at the hands, feet, ankles, and wrists. However, severe rheumatoid arthritis can affect larger joints in the knees, hips, shoulders, and elbows.
Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by stiffness, pain, swelling, and redness, especially in the morning. Untreated rheumatoid arthritis causes deformity of joints and may hinder a person from performing simple tasks such as gripping cutlery or writing.
Treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, if aggressive treatment is sought early enough, the impact can be greatly reduced so that the quality of life of a person is not affected.
Symptoms of patellar tendon tear
Symptoms of a ruptured patellar tendon are swelling of the knee, pain, and tenderness. Pain and inflammation may worsen as the damage increases.
Complete rupture of the knee-tendon is characterized by a pop. A person may also experience instability and difficulty in walking. The knee cap may also move to the thigh. A patellar knee tendon tear may worsen due to:
Treatment of a patellar tendon tear
Minor tears – minor tears may require the knee to be put in a brace for 4-8 weeks. Physiotherapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and painkillers may also be prescribed.
Severe tears and ruptures – severe tears and ruptures require immediate surgical repair. If it is impossible to repair them, reconstruction is done. Damaged tendons are replaced with tendons from other parts of the body or a donor.
One of the most effective ways of slowing down or preventing muscle, bone, and joint issues is exercising. Physical exercises help to maintain flexibility, balance, and strength. Regular m exercising helps the bones to remain strong.
Smokers are advised to quit smoking since smoking is harmful to the body and can affect joints. Overweight individuals are advised to watch their weight since being overweight has a great impact on joints especially those at the knees.
It is advisable to engage in low-impact physical exercises such as biking, walking swimming. Weight training can also help build and strengthen muscles that support joints. It is also important to avoid sugary drinks since they can enhance inflammation and increase the chance of gaining weight which increases the risk for joint disorders.
The elderly experience several joint disorders that come as a result of old age. However, a healthy lifestyle and diet that is inclusive of vegetables and fresh fruits and getting enough sleep can help reduce the chances of developing joint disorders.
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