Geriatric orthopaedics is a branch of medicine that revolves around identifying and addressing certain musculoskeletal conditions of the elderly. As we age, our bones and muscles tend to degenerate and not seeking treatment early may lead to deterioration. Singapore is currently one of the most rapidly ageing societies in Asia with 15.2% of residents aged 65 years and above. In a nation where we are facing the challenges of an ageing population, geriatrics orthopaedics can be extremely beneficial.
Common Geriatric Orthopaedic Conditions
Geriatric orthopaedic conditions can lead to much pain and discomfort, thus decreasing the overall quality of life. Beyond negatively impacting physical wellbeing, the inability to perform certain activities or tasks may affect mental wellbeing too. Below are some common geriatric orthopaedic conditions that can be treated at an orthopaedic clinic in Singapore.
Arthritis is the swelling or tenderness of one or more joints. Those suffering from this condition may experience pain or stiffness in their joints that limits their movement and worsens with age. There are two types of arthritis – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The former is more common and occurs due to normal wear and tear while the latter is an autoimmune disease where the lining of the joints are being attacked by the immune system.
Osteoporosis happens when the bone loss is greater than bone formation in the elderly. This can occur due to the aging process, or medical conditions like diabetes, or a lack of dietary intake of calcium and Vitamin D. This causes the bones to be fragile and brittle. Since symptoms are hard to spot in the early stages, a stooping posture, loss of height and easily breakable bones indicate symptoms of late onset osteoporosis. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures, therefore it is highly advisable to visit an orthopaedic clinic for diagnosis and treatment.
As bone density decreases with age, falls become extremely detrimental to the elderly, often resulting in severe consequences like serious fractures. Fractures are a partial or complete break in the bone. The 3 commonest osteoporotic fractures in Singapore are hip fractures, distal radius fractures and vertebral compression fractures.
When it comes to geriatric orthopaedic treatments, it all depends on your condition. It is best to consult an orthopaedic doctor in Singapore to get appropriate recommendations that are tailored to you. For instance, in critical cases of knee arthritis, knee gel injections or knee replacement may be necessary to treat the condition. Knee gel injections help to lubricate the joints in the knee to improve movement.
In more severe cases of knee arthritis, a knee replacement surgery is required. This reduces pain and restores mobility. Patients with severe arthritis or injuries to their knees may benefit from this procedure.
Alternatively, geriatric orthopaedics also include non-invasive treatments such as medication or physiotherapy. With regards to arthritis, your orthopaedic doctor may recommend analgesic medications or counterirritants including creams and ointments to alleviate inflammation and pain in the joints. Orthopaedic physiotherapy can also aid in such conditions. Your orthopaedic doctor will develop a series of physio exercises to help treat the muscles, joints and ligaments for enhanced movement and minimise discomfort.
Making lifestyle changes is one of the best ways to prevent geriatric orthopaedic conditions. This involves sufficient intake of calcium, vitamin D and regular exercise, all of which enrich the bones, keeping them strong and healthy. Calcium and vitamin D can be derived from supplements or by switching up your diet to contain more of certain foods. Vitamin D-rich foods include cod liver oil, trout and salmon while calcium-rich foods consist of dark green leafy vegetables and soy products. In addition, decreasing alcohol consumption has also been shown to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
While we may not be able to completely prevent geriatric orthopaedic conditions, we can definitely slow down the process with an active, healthy lifestyle and getting treatment early from an orthopaedic doctor.