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March 21, 2006 > More Joint Injuries as Baby Boomers Stay Active

More Joint Injuries as Baby Boomers Stay Active

Joint problems, especially with a knee or shoulder, are common reasons for going to the doctor - and the number of people seeking medical care for injured joints is growing as the baby boomer generation begins to age. Most baby boomers like to stay active. This is a healthy thing, but the stress of motion and weight bearing on aging joints can lead to problems.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that, in 2003, more than 19 million visits were made to physicians' offices due to knee problems - the most common reason for visiting an orthopedic surgeon. In the same year, shoulder problems brought people to the doctor nearly 14 million times.

"We see many patients with shoulder and knee problems, some more complicated than others," reports Soheil Motamed, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with Mission Peak Orthopedic Medical Group in Fremont and Pleasanton. "Although many conditions can be treated non-surgically, when surgery is required, we usually take a minimally invasive approach that is less painful and heals faster."

Dr. Motamed and Ashay Kale, M.D., also an orthopedic surgeon with Mission Peak, will discuss common shoulder and knee disorders at a free public lecture presented by Washington Hospital on March 28. Both physicians are members of the Washington Hospital Medical Staff.

Most frequently injured

The largest joint in our body, the knee is more prone to injury than many other joints, especially among people who are physically active. Knee problems are common in those who participate in sports like skiing, basketball, football and soccer.

"People enjoy being more active now, including walking, hiking and running," says Dr. Kale. "As they get older, they want to continue participating in physical exercise and sports at the same level, and they should be able to do this. However, joint problems tend to occur more often."

Common knee difficulties include injury to one of the joint's major ligaments, the fibrous tissues that keep the bones of the knee in place. They include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the medical collateral ligament (MCL) and the posterior cruciate ligament. Other people may experience a torn knee cartilage, the tissue connected to the bone that's usually referred to as the meniscus. This rubbery cartilage acts as a shock absorber in the knee.

According to Dr. Kale, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor:

  • Knee pain, especially when going down stairs or climbing up stairs, that doesn't go away after one week or is getting worse
  • Pain that prevents sports activities or activities of daily living
  • Swelling of the knee that doesn't go away in two or three days
  • Catching or locking of the joint that does not resolve after one week
  • Instability of the knee, including repeated collapse of the joint. This is a more serious problem that may signal a torn knee ligament.

Excessive overhead motion

Shoulder injuries often occur in people who swim, play tennis, pitch or lift weights. But, even everyday activities like washing walls, hanging curtains and gardening can sometimes lead to problems with a shoulder joint. When an injury occurs, it's important to diagnose and treat it as soon as possible to prevent the development of a more serious condition.

Common shoulder injuries include tendonitis or a tear of the rotator cuff - the group of muscles and tendons that holds the shoulder joint in place; shoulder instability - when the joint pops out; frozen shoulder - pain and loss of motion or stiffness in the joint; and arthritis.

People having any of the following problems with their shoulder should seek medical attention, advises Dr. Motamed:

  • Pain that wakes you up at night - called "night pain"
  • Limited range of motion
  • Severe or persistent weakness
  • Pain with overhead activity, including activities of daily living such as dressing, fastening a bra or combing hair

Treating injuries

Many joint problems improve with rest, ice and/or a short course of anti-inflammatory medication. Physical therapy can also be helpful. As a last resort, surgery may be recommended.

To help you learn more about shoulder disorders and knee conditions, Dr. Motamed and Dr. Kale will present a Health and Wellness seminar on Tuesday, March 28, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue. To register, please call (800) 963-7070. For more information about the upcoming seminar or other classes offered at Washington Hospital, visit, click on "For Our Community" and select "Health Classes & Support Groups" from the drop-down menu.
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