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HomehealthWhen osteoarthritis puts the brakes on your mobility

When osteoarthritis puts the brakes on your mobility

A study from last year said Bengalureans waste 10 days in a year driving and about five days sittingthrough a traffic jam. If you are someone who has experienced the city’s congestion first-hand, thatwould seem to be a conservative estimate. If you were the one behind the wheel of any one of those cars, then the anguish and pain over themiles-long tailbacks can be quite literal. You would feel a throbbing that starts unnoticeably aroundyour kneecaps and then turns into an unrelenting stabbing pain by the time you get a chance tostretch your legs.

If this happens often enough, then you may be experiencing what is commonly known as ‘driver’s knee’. Think of it as the tennis elbow of the knee, caused by repeated motion of your legs. It’s aninjury caused by the repeated motion used in pressing the clutch and brake.Now, consider a different, almost opposite scenario.

You are immobile in a cramped bus seat after spending hours seated at your office desk. Technicallyyou are at rest. Do you think that could hurt your knees? The answer is yes.

In this case, muscles thatsupport the knee may weaken due to a prolonged state of being almost immobilised in the sameposition. This, in turn, causes additional wear and tear to the patella (kneecap).

The bottom line is that both sedentary lifestyles and overuse of the joints, combined with poorposture habits that have become part and parcel of life in the city, can hurt your knees.The temporary bouts of knee pain induced by such activities are not dangerous in themselves.

However, ifyou have been ignoring these symptoms for some time, then the temporary discomfort may take ona more permanent appearance in the form of osteoarthritis (OA), also known as wear-and-tear arthritis.

Risks of osteoarthritis

Over time, the knee cartilage may wear down and result in OA which is the most common type ofarthritis affecting over 62 million people in India.This breakdown leads to pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility in the affected joints, often makingsimple tasks like driving or even walking, challenging.

Treatment options

Non-surgical treatment options for osteoarthritis aim to manage pain and joint stiffness if thecartilage lost due to wear and tear cannot be regained. Doctors may prescribe painkillers,corticosteroid injections and physiotherapy as standalone treatments or a combination of more thanone of these options depending on an individual’s symptoms.

While physiotherapy and medication may help reduce the overall pain, high-stress activities like driving, climbing stairs or performing physically intensive chores may still be painful. Your doctormay suggest considering knee surgery or total knee replacement to increase or regain jointflexibility. These surgeries are considered safe.

Reduce the stress on the knee

♦ Alternate an hour of sitting with 5 minutes of stretching and walking around.

♦ Maintain a healthy body weight.

♦ Consider using knee-sleeves or a brace while driving, it can help distribute the pressureevenly on the joint. Adjust the back recliner, steering height, and seat cushions to maintain a 120-degree angle with your legs.

♦ Invest in good footwear with adequate cushioning, and avoid wearing heels or dress shoes if youare on your feet a lot.

♦ Get tested for Vitamin D and C deficiency; try to have a nutrient-rich diet.

(The author is a Bengaluru-based joint replacement & arthroscopic surgeon)

(Published 21 October 2023, 19:19 IST)

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