Stiff Joints and Joint Pain

Question: I’m 45 years old and I run, play street soccer or cycle at least a few times a week. Lately, there has been stiffness in my joints that just won’t go away despite stretching and exercising. A friend says I may have osteoarthritis. Can this be so?

Answer: Yes, it’s a possibility, although inflammation of the joints (arthritis) can occur for other reasons — including gout, meniscus tear, or tendinopathy (tendon injury) around the knee.

Stiffness and pains are merely symptoms consistent with inflammation and are non-specific. For instance, tears in the meniscus can cause mechanical obstruction but may present only with pain, swelling and stiffness.

Tendinopathy of the patellar tendon (located below the kneecap) can present with knee pain at the front of the knee, but so can degenerative conditions involving the patellofemoral joint (between the kneecap and the thigh bone) along with crepitus (described as ‘roughness’ beneath the kneecap).

Related: Knee Pain: Finding Ease for Old Knees

As mentioned, there are other causes of inflammation of joints due to non-mechanical reasons. Precipitation of gout crystals in joints can cause redness and inflammation of affected joints and there are also conditions where the immune system attacks the joints and cause pain and stiffness.

If the symptoms persist, please check with your doctor to establish the diagnosis.

Dr Jason Chia
Sports Medicine & Surgery Clinic
Tan Tock Seng Hospital

Related: Knee Arthritis: Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Frequent Knee Pain

As we age, we become more prone to arthritis pain.

Question: At 50, I have started to get the occasional pain in my knee. An X-ray subsequently showed that I have severe osteoarthritis. I’ve searched “knee osteoarthritis” online, and there is an overload of information about things to buy and try. How do I know what works and what doesn’t?

Answer: There are many treatment options available for osteoarthritis, including oral supplements containing glucosamine as a core ingredient. It is debatable whether supplements can reduce pain and disease progression. However, many people are keen to try these as side effects are minimal. Intra-articular injections containing either steroids or hyaluronic acid are helpful in the short term. But rather than medication, why not try some exercise?

Low-impact exercises — with the guidance of a physical therapist to help with muscle strengthening and weight loss — are useful. If you suffer from severe and debilitating osteoarthritis, surgical options such as a partial or total knee replacement can work wonders to improve your quality of life.

Dr Kau Chung Yuan
Orthopaedic Consultant
Tan Tock Seng Hospital

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.

Read these next: