With age comes an onslaught of new health problems and mobility issues. Unfortunately, this means that joint pain and arthritis are common in Montreal seniors. According to The Arthritis Society, approximately 1 out of every 5 Canadians has arthritis. This is a disease affecting much of the elderly population, but not all joint pain is created equal, and there are many reasons why this symptom may occur.
We often assume joint pain is just a natural result of aging that can’t be combated, but experts otherwise. The cartilage surrounding our joints does in fact weaken over time due to natural wear & tear, leading to aches and creaking joints caused by arthritis, but this is a treatable condition.
Causes of Joint Pain in Seniors
There are over a hundred different types of arthritis, the most common of which for seniors are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Each type of arthritis is characterized by inflammation of the joints, leading to stiffness, redness, and a decreased range of motion. However, the way these conditions come about are very different.
- Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, caused by the gradual loss of cartilage;
- Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, which is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the joints;
- Other forms of joint diseases include gout, fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, etc.
Difficulties of Arthritis
Arthritis can affect any one of an elderly person’s joints, though it’s most common in the hands, knees, hips and lower spine. Often, this can make it difficult to complete daily activities, which may cause depression in seniors. In this case, hiring a professional caregiver is recommended to help with physical tasks such as bathing & dressing, preparation of food, etc.
Prevention & Early Signs
If you or an elderly loved one is noticing joint pain, redness, or tenderness, it could be the beginning of arthritis. While the autoimmune form of this disease cannot be prevented (as the risk factor is strongly linked to genetics), steps can be taken to minimize the chance of developing osteoarthritis. These include:
- Eating a rich, balanced diet, focusing on anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish, olive oil, nuts, and berries;
- Doing low-impact exercises, such as walking, swimming, or yoga at least three times per week (consider hiring a caregiver to help develop an exercise/walking plan);
- Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the joints.
If arthritis has already begun and is making daily life difficult, there are treatments that can be done at home to manage the symptoms:
- NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen, (Motrin, Advil) can provide temporary relief of joint stiffness, pain and inflammation, but shouldn’t be used for an extended amount of time due to potential side effects;
- Applying ice or heat to the affected joint;
- Increasing range of motion through gentle stretching;
- Physical or occupational therapy;
- Using topical pain relievers, such as counter-irritants.
If the degeneration of cartilage is severe, a doctor may suggest surgery or other treatments. Some possible medical procedures include:
- Joint repair, often through arthroscopic surgery;
- Immunosuppressant drugs for rheumatoid arthritis;
- Cortisone injections for pain relief;
- Joint fusion is a common surgery for arthritis of the spine, wrist, feet or fingers;
- In some cases, replacement arthroplasty, or joint replacement, may be recommended.
The Importance of Being Diagnosed
While there are many causes of joint pain in seniors, it’s important to know exactly which one is causing your elderly loved one’s discomfort. While osteoarthritis is the most common reason for stiff and painful joints, there are many diseases and forms of arthritis that can be the cause, so it’s important to consult a physician for a diagnosis and treatment options. Often, digital imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI will be used to determine the cause of pain.
A doctor should always be consulted before trying new medications.
Living with Joint Pain
While arthritis is technically manageable and steps can be taken to minimize discomfort, it is a very serious disease and can greatly reduce a senior’s quality of life. If you or an elderly loved one is living with arthritis, Complete Care Coordination can help: From companion care to help reduce stress and depression caused by arthritis, to help with physical tasks like bathing & dressing, our qualified caregivers can reduce the impact of this disease.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation if you or a senior family member needs help managing the symptoms of joint pain.