About seven out of every 10 people older than 70 in the nation are affected by degenerative joint disease, but increasing calcium intake is not the solution, an orthopedist said, adding that people should seek medical attention as soon as possible if their knees hurt or they have difficulty walking.
Taipei-based Chung Shan Hospital orthopedist Wu Jiunn-jer (吳濬哲) on Monday said degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) is often caused by repetitive joint movements over long periods of time, which damage the cartilage, tendons and ligaments at joints.
About 70 percent of people older than 70 in Taiwan have the disease, he said, adding that about 85 percent of people who seek medical treatment reported pain in their knees, including some who use a wheelchair because of the extreme pain.
More than 90 percent of patients said that they have taken painkillers, but some worry about the possible side effects of the long-term use of such medication, Wu said.
About half of all patients hold a misconception that consuming more calcium can improve their condition, but calcium is more effective for the prevention of bone loss (osteoporosis), he said.
Wu cited the case of an 85-year-old retired soldier with osteoarthritis who could not walk up or down stairs or ride a bicycle and whose knees curved out a few years ago due to a severe loss of cartilage, creating a bow-legged appearance.
Painkillers failed to ease the pain the veteran experienced, so he sought medical treatment three years ago and received hyaluronic acid injections to ease the pain and stiffness in his knees, but the pain reoccurred after a few months, Wu said.
The soldier eventually underwent a MAKOplasty — a procedure in which a knee or hip joint is replaced or remodeled using a robotic arm system developed by MAKO Surgical Corp — which allowed him to recover and even ride a bicycle after a couple of weeks, Wu said.
People who experience joint pain should seek medical attention as soon as possible to receive proper treatment, Wu said, adding that young people can protect their knees by performing warm-up exercises before playing sports and taking preventive measures to avoid injury when running or jumping.