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Don't Knock Knees: Protecting This Important Joint as a Senior

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Don't Knock Knees: Protecting This Important Joint as a Senior

Some knee and joint issues are expected with age, and it's helpful to understand the different conditions that can arise as well as what steps you can take to proactively preserve healthy knees. Once you know what to look for and how to prevent it, you'll have a leg up on how to achieve optimal knee health.

You can also ask a staff nurse or other medical professional in the assisted living community for advice and direction on maintaining knee health.

Common Causes of and Treatments for Knee Pain

The knees provide support for the whole body and allow your legs to bend and straighten. Flexibility and stability in this important joint let you walk, stand, run, jump, crouch and turn, so when something goes wrong, it has a big impact. Mechanical knee problems are typically caused by sudden movement or a direct blow that injures the knee. Osteoarthritis, or arthritis in the knee, results from everyday wear and tear.

Problems with frequent swelling also originate from arthritis and lupus. With rheumatoid arthritis, your knees become inflamed and the cartilage wears away.

Regardless of the cause of knee issues, treatment options often include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Medication
  • Knee replacement surgery


As we age, cartilage in our knee breaks down, and the cushion that absorbs pressure and shock wears off between the bones. This is called osteoarthritis and typically causes swelling, bone loss and a reduced range of motion. Bone spurs may also form.

Among older adults, the likelihood of osteoarthritis depends on age, gender, trauma, heredity and weight. Repetitive stress injuries and high-impact sports from earlier in life can exacerbate the condition. Some common recommendations for preventing or reducing the effects of osteoarthritis include:

  • Take aspirin, acetaminophen and other over-the-counter pain medication
  • Use ibuprofen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation
  • Exercise to optimize mobility and strength

Knee Problem Prevention

Some knee problems are unavoidable, but you can take the following steps to help prevent many knee issues from worsening:

  • Warm up before playing sports
  • Strengthen leg muscles by riding a stationary bicycle
  • Avoid sudden changes in intensity when you exercise
  • Increase duration of activity slowly
  • Wear comfortable shoes that fit
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Knee Exercises for Arthritis

You can complete exercises targeting your legs and knees in your assisted living apartment or as a warm-up before a Cambridge Court exercise class. Ask your doctor whether you're healthy enough to perform these exercises without assistance.

Three types of exercise are best for people with arthritis:

  • Range-of-motion exercises maximize your flexibility and relieve stiffness
  • Strengthening exercises maintain the muscles that support and protect joints with arthritis
  • Aerobic or endurance exercises improve heart function and blood circulation and help you control weight

Work with the assisted living community staff, your physical therapist or your doctor to develop exercises that are appropriate for your knees.

Knee Braces

A knee brace provides stability to help prevent injuries from worsening, making it a good tool to protect a weak or injured joint. There are many types of knee braces, and you should ask your medical professional which one is best for you.

  • Open patella knee braces have a front hole to reduce pressure through your kneecap
  • Closed patella knee braces have a complete brace that supports the entire knee
  • Knee sleeves protect your knee in case of sprains, arthritis, tendonitis, cartilage irritation and swelling
  • Hinged knee braces provide stability and prevent the knee from bending back, and they're often used during recovery periods after surgery
  • Knee straps put pressure on the patella tendon to support the kneecap and improve movement.

Whatever shape your knees are in, don't assume your dancing days are over. You can still take care of your knees and even improve certain conditions. As always, you'll receive full support from the Cambridge Court staff to maintain optimal knee health.