Knees and balance share a close relationship, but until I read Grandma Williams blog, I’d never heard of the combination. You wouldn’t believe how relieved I felt when I read it.
Our evening at the ballet last week got me thinking more about knees.
‘All that leaping around,’ I thought, ‘must surely be bad for the knees of those dancers.’
The dancers were young, lithe, beautiful. If their knees were a problem, there was no evidence.
Grandma Williams, however, didn’t write about knees and ballet. Instead she wrote about knees and the opera, or more exactly, the effect sitting at the opera has on knees. She described how one’s ageing joints trend to complain about having to stand and get on with balance. Sometimes, they refuse altogether.
She is an eighty-something retired physiotherapist. Her blogs about her ageing body, including this about joints and loos and one about falling are hilarious.
Until recently, I thought balance was mostly to do with head-space and dizziness. but after a small amount of research, I discovered the effects of ageing, and worse, of osteoarthritis, on joints and especially on knee joints. It makes sense that if major joints are not aligned properly, balance is affected.
I love it when people in authority (like general practitioners) ask me to stand on one foot while they count to twenty, because I practise regularly in the pool where I am bare-footed and able to adjust my balance. Unless I concentrate my balance suffers, but I can (mostly) balance on demand.
Exhibiting this skill seems set to go on for a while. Those eighty years or older must subject themselves to a physical examination (including knees and balance) every year to renew their driver’s licence. The upside is that over a certain age, there’s no longer a fee to renew.
Another problem to do with balance appears when older people need to walk up or down stairs or on rocky ground. We often need to hold on to something or someone. It is not that we need support as much as we need the additional sensory input for balance.
Even holding on to something unsubstantial, like a little branch or twig that would never bear our weight, steadies us.
My preference for ‘proper’, smooth paths developed gradually. Climbing over rocks at the beach or on bush walks rather than taking sedate steps is exhilarating and much more fun. I miss that roughness!Wonky knees and poor balance set us up for the danger of falling. I’ve written about celebrating our stories of falling and about why we should refuse to have falls. Like almost everything good we want, it’s never too early or too late to work on one’s balance.
What might help knees and balance
- Weight within a normal range. Even a few kilograms adds considerable stress to joints.
- A session or two with an exercise physiologist to work out a strategy for knees and balance.
- Specific balance exercises. You can check these out here.
- Exercises which specifically target the muscles which support the knees. These help with the pain of osteoarthritis.
- I’m contemplating using a proper walking stick to improve my confidence to walk on rough ground.
- Theatres like His Majesty’s and the Octagon in Perth are not particularly aged friendly, although they do have access for wheelchairs. I might even consider a pretty going-out-at-night stick, one I can fold and carry in my bag until I need it. Purple or bright pink, with painted flowers, would suit my style, I think.