“Ooh my knee” – one of the most common statements that you will hear older people make. The pains that affect the joints can be pretty bad and unbearable.  And the main cause for this is Arthritis, Arthritis is common amongst living beings including animals and of course us humans. Arthritis is a common term used to refer to pains in the joints. People across ages, genders and races can and do have arthritis, and it is one of the leading cause of disability world over. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older.

In today’s fast paced world where families are become more and more nuclear, and with the concept of joint families becoming obsolete, the persons who are affected the most are our senior citizens. It is said that old age is a second childhood. And their behavior can be quite childish. I know this aunty in my neighborhood whose daughter and son are both abroad. She has a maid servant who takes care of her needs. The day her maid makes rotis, she wants dosas and if the dosas are made she wants idlis. Can actually be quite a pain on the poor maid! But this is probably that auntie’s way of wanting importance. In such a scenario, making them do things that is good for them – like exercises or taking medication can be quite a handful.

Amongst the elderly osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It has been defined as the “degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone, most common from middle age onward. It causes pain and stiffness, especially in the hip, knee, and thumb joints.” To provide relief from arthritis, doctors usually suggest exercises or relief packs. It is essential to make our elders do it. This not only provides them relief but can also prevent more pain for them.

Impact of Osteoarthritis:

Clinical impact:

The joints get worn out making small movement painful

Over a period of time the lack of mobility leads to muscle weakness and wasting

Psychological impact:

Lack of independence leads to low self esteem

Sudden shift from being the care giver and provider for the family to being the recipient leads to depression and/or anxiety

Withdrawal from social engagements / social activities due to pain and limited mobility creates loneliness and hostility leading to increase in rage over small issues and alternating periods of sadness and anger.

Some Tips for Osteoarthritis care:

  • Application of either heat or cold packs, or both one after the other can help provide relief. The result can only be felt by the patient, so ask your beloved grandmother / grandfather / uncle / aunty/ brother / sister who have these symptoms of knee pain / hip pain / back pain / knee swelling / ankle pain / foot pain to tell you if they feel better is better.
  • Losing weight reduces the pressure on the joints, so teach your parents and other seniors at home the importance of reducing weight and exercising. Home Physiotherapy can be an excellent way to get functional exercise done while preserving the joint and reducing pain.
  • Some people tend to have joint stiffness in the mornings. A heating pad can be used before they get up which can help mitigate pain. A warm water bath in the morning when they first get out of bed could also be relieving.
  • For painful and swollen joints cold packs helps numb the painful area. An ice pack can be applied on the joint to provide relief from pain.
  • The heat or cold packs should be used for only 15 minutes at a time. The effectiveness wears off after that.
  • Try and ask them to move their joints to reduce stiffness. While initially it can be pretty painful, it is really a great treatment in the long run.
  • If the exercises are done properly, slowly building on to the activities it actually helps protect swollen joints. This reduces pain, fatigue and stiffness. But if exercises are not done regularly, this can cause joint deterioration causing them to become so stiff that it will be difficult to move.
  • A physical therapist specially trained to work with arthritis patients can best teach them about exercises for Osteoarthritis. It is important to take their help.

These are just a few tips. Our therapists can play a huge role in providing proper professional care for elderly patients with osteoarthritis. After all a pain-free life is what they would most want isn’t it?!

One Life has managed hundreds of cases of pain, and the smiles on our patient’s faces when they regain their mobility and freedom from pain after a regimen of coordinated nursing and physiotherapy support is all the encouragement we need.