Does your nagging knee pain remind you of your glory days as a star athlete perhaps being queen (or king) of your rec league? If you’re like many active adults, you’ve been competing in one form or another most of your life. But if an incoming weather front makes you think more about Advil than getting the gang together for a rematch, those old sports injuries might be catching up with you.
Believe it or not this is not all bad news – remaining active at any age helps us maintain mobility, flexibility and good mental health,as long as we take a smart approach to those activities. Addressing nagging knee pain is not the huge production it used to be. Gone are the days of four-inch scars and six weeks of immobilization. Today, relief can come in many forms,from physical therapy and other non-surgical solutions, to minimally invasive procedures that can offer immense relief and get you back in the game in a matter of weeks.
For many lifelong athletes, knee pain as an adult can be the result of a previous injury like a torn ACL, meniscus or MCL. According to the Cleveland Clinic, years after the original injury was repaired “post-traumatic arthritis” can and does occur in more than 5 million people in the US. Most non-traumatic arthritis occurs in adults 60 years or older so signs of arthritis in younger adults is often tied to a previous injury.
As we age, regular wear and tear from everyday life can compound the pain making it more difficult to stay active. Swelling due to accumulation of fluid in the knee can lead to pain and is one of the most common symptoms of knee arthritis or soft tissue injury in the knee.
If you have knee pain from an old injury, relief starts by ensuring you maintain a healthy body weight and emphasizing strength training – particularly in muscles around the knee – to protect the joint. It’s also more important than ever to incorporate low-impact exercise into your routine. Great options include biking, rowing, swimming, yoga and Pilates. By keeping multiple fitness goals in mind, such as strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness, you’ll be putting your whole body in a better position to stay healthy and be active.
But if you feel like you’ve been masking the symptoms of nagging knee pain with NSAIDs like Advil or meloxicam for far too long, it might be time for a visit to your orthopedic specialist. They can help you determine if an injection of cortisone or synthetic joint fluid can ease the pain, or if you need debris like damaged cartilage or bone removed from the joint. For some, knee reconstruction or replacement might be the best option as both procedures bring very effective and lasting relief without the massive recovery time you might recall from decades ago.
Preventing future injury
While there may not be many good ways to prevent the progression of arthritis and knee pain that comes years after an injury, you can still minimize future joint pain by working hard to prevent injuries today. Remember these tips:
- Always warm up to get your body loose and ready to work.
- Stretch before and especially after each workout or sports activity.
- Make smart decisions about participating in contact sports – always wear the proper gear and try to minimize hard hits.
- Listen to your body and don’t overdo it! Even if your competitive fire is at full strength, remember that your body may not heal as quickly or completely as it did years ago.