The Golden Years – Aging Joints Can Have Cascade Effect on Quality of Life

by Sherrin Griffin VP, Operations, Sidney SeniorCare – 

Faced with the news that you need a joint replacement is disconcerting to say the least … in my case, needing a hip replacement before the age of 60 is evidence of the wear and tear on my body and old injuries that I sustained as a competitive gymnast in my teen years. I find it hard to accept that my once strong and supple body seems to be failing me now, and digest the fact that the natural process of aging is not always kind.

I’ve recently discovered, though, that our bodies are incredibly resilient at any age. Currently helping my 89-year-old father navigate through his own hip replacement, I am astounded at how quickly the body can adapt and recover, even for the elderly. Witnessing my father’s agony with each painful step turn into almost immediate relief post-surgery has been pretty inspirational.

According to the Canadian Joint Replacement Registry (CJRR), reports from 2019 cite that hip and knee replacements are among the top three inpatient surgeries performed annually, with an almost 25% increase in volume from the previous five years. Over 65% of patients are seniors, 65 and older, although the average age is trending downwards. The most common diagnosis was degenerative arthritis.

Wear and tear over the years due to the demands of certain sports, repetitive activities or simply age can cause gradual degradation of the joint, potentially resulting in cartilage loss, the cushioning between bones. An old injury may be the original cause, but various forms of arthritis can exacerbate the joint deterioration and result in painful inflammation of the area.

The pain and decrease in mobility experienced by seniors can be very debilitating, impacting quality of life and enjoyment of activities, leading to depression and feelings of isolation for an age group already at risk. Seniors may react by retreating from life, engaging less with family and friends and becoming shut-ins.

It’s very important, especially during the current healthcare challenges, to advocate for your very best health outcome, or have a close friend or family member advocate on your behalf. If you are experiencing regular discomfort in a joint, ask for an X-ray, CT or MRI scan. You need to see what’s going on with the joint, and the sooner, the better. My dad downplayed his hip pain with his physician for many years, and, therefore, ended up living with severe pain for much longer than he should have.

The good news is that there are many options for lessening the severity of the painful joint and helping seniors to get back into life. Be sure to discuss your own unique situation with your doctor or other healthcare practitioner(s) to ensure you find solutions that best suit your individual needs to help mitigate the pain and inflammation. Of course, there are over-the-counter and doctor-prescribed pain medications and/or injections which can provide relief for the short-term, although neither are sustainable long-term solutions.

I decided to try a natural, more holistic approach for my symptoms, including supplements to decrease overall inflammation and regular chiropractic care to keep my spine aligned properly and my nervous system working optimally in order to reduce added stress on my affected joint.

Working with a physiotherapist and kinesiologist has helped to strengthen my compromised joint via a targeted exercise program. Acupuncture is another natural modality which research suggests may help to reduce inflammation and manage pain, while promoting self-healing and a sense of overall well-being.

Despite our efforts to manage our affected joint, there may come a day when quality of life is so severely impacted that it’s simply time for a joint replacement. When I waver on whether it’s indeed my time, I need only to look as far as my own father. His new hip has not only given him a new lease on life and a pain-free future for his final years – joint replacement surgery has given him the will to achieve that goal of centenarian status.

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