An overuse of anything can cause wear and tear and our body is no exception, especially our joints. Over or improper use of our joints may lead to joint cartilage overload, which is otherwise known as arthritis. Arthritis comes in two common forms – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage breaks down from overuse while in rheumatoid arthritis, a disease in the immune system damages the joints. In this article, we explore everything you need to know about the wear and tear of joints, from the different types, risk factors and treatment options.
Different Types of Wear and Tear
Wear and tear can happen in different areas of our body. It is most common in the weight bearing joints like the hips, knees, ankle and even the spine. Should we feel constant pain that does not go away, it is recommended to visit an orthopaedic doctor in Singapore. Below are common parts of the body that experience wear and tear.
Wear and tear in the knee is extremely common as we rely on our knees all the time for walking, standing and even sitting. As we get older, the cartilage in our knees gradually wears down causing a painful joint. Our knee has a protective meniscus which acts like a shock absorber, which can degenerate over time or get damaged due to a sporting injury. As this protective structure wears out, there is increased pressure and stress on the cartilage. With continued repetitive and unprotected weight bearing, cartilage damage can occur leading to arthritis.
Those with wear and tear in the spine (degenerative spine) may experience pain and stiffness in the neck or lower back. Occasionally, a degenerative spine can cause nerve compression and the patient may present with radicular nerve pain or sciatica. Certain aggravating factors like poor posture or back trauma can exacerbate the condition of arthritis in the spine. Your orthopaedic doctor may conduct a complete physical examination or X-rays for an accurate diagnosis.
Ankle arthritis results from the wear and tear of the ankle cartilage. Ankle arthritis usually sets in after trauma, excessive overloading or repeated sprains. Sprains typically occur from falls or rigorous sports activities and can range from mild to severe. Frequent twisting and spraining of an unstable ankle increases the risk of wear and tear.
Risk Factors of Wear and Tear
The wear and tear of joints can be caused by many reasons. Understanding the different risk factors will give us an insight into how we can prevent this from happening and reduce our visits to a specialist orthopaedic centre.
Obese patients are at a higher risk for osteoarthritis. This is because more pressure is placed on the joints, particularly the knees. The knees and ankle are particularly at risk as they are weight bearing joints. This increases friction and negatively impacts not just the knees but the hips and ankles as well.
Excessive smoking, drinking and remaining sedentary can increase the risk of wear and tear in the joints. Under the effects of tobacco, osteoarthritis accelerates as the bone and cartilage tissues are unable to rebuild effectively. Last but not least, many assume that being active is what worsens joint wear and tear. On the contrary, it is inactivity that heightens the risk. A sedentary lifestyle weakens your joints and muscles, which in turn are not strong enough to provide support to the joints. This can result in accelerated wear and tear when you use them.
Recurrence of Sports Injuries
After an injury, your body may become more susceptible to the recurrence of that injury. When this keeps happening, the wearing and tearing of joints is inevitable. Participating in sports can lead to injuries that impact the joints overtime. Acute sports injuries like meniscal tears, ligament tears and cartilage injuries should be treated to avoid further chronic injuries to the joints. Improper footwear and failing to warm up are also highly associated with sports injuries.
Pain and swelling in the affected joints are the most commonly experienced symptoms of joint wear and tear. This is due to the lining and protective cushion, called the cartilage, eroding away. The friction and stiffness caused by arthritis can also lead to loss of movement and in more severe cases, the joints may become deformed. It is advisable to visit a specialist orthopaedic centre the instance you feel constant pain to prevent the deterioration of the condition.
Ultimately, the treatment you received depends on your condition and what your orthopaedic doctor recommends. In milder cases, non-surgical treatments may be provided. This includes physiotherapy. During a physiotherapy session, your orthopaedic doctor will not only develop a physiotherapy tailored to you, but also offer advice and education on pain relief and how you can manage your condition on your own. Following the exercises recommended by your doctor regularly and their advice on certain lifestyle changes maximises your route to recovery. Your orthopaedic doctor may also prescribe certain supplements such as native collagen that can help reduce the rate of the cartilage breakdown with arthritis.
In more serious cases, surgery including keyhole spine surgery or keyhole knee washout may be performed. During keyhole spine surgery, pressure is alleviated from the spine by removing the affected disc that is pressing the nerve. On the other hand, a keyhole knee washout involves flushing the knee joint through a small incision to remove loose debris around the joint.
The joints are essential parts of our body regulating optimal movements and functions in our everyday lives. It is important to implement healthy living into our lifestyle to minimise our risks of joint wear and tear.
At Specialist Orthopaedic Centre, we offer a suite of solutions to address joint wear and tear. Contact us today for more information.