Arthritis of the knee joint is one of the most common causes of knee pain. There are different types of arthritis that can affect the knee joint, and the treatments may vary depending on the specific condition that is causing the symptoms.
Knee arthritis typically affects patients as they get older. Symptoms are more common in patients who are overweight, and weight loss tends to reduce the severity of pain associated with knee arthritis. There is also a genetic component, meaning knee arthritis can be passed down within a family. Other factors that can contribute to developing knee arthritis include injuries to the knee, torn cartilage, and fractures to the bone around the joint.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of knee arthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized by progressive wearing away of the cartilage in the joint. As the protective cartilage is worn away, bone is exposed, the knee becomes swollen, and activities become increasingly painful.
Signs of Knee Arthritis
Knee arthritis symptoms tend to gradually progress as the condition worsens, however, symptoms may suddenly worsen with minor injury or overuse. Some patients report long episodes of mild symptoms, with sudden changes that increase the severity of their symptoms. Often patients report good months and bad months, or symptoms that fluctuate with the weather. This is important to understand because comparing the symptoms of arthritis on one particular day may not accurately represent the overall progression of the condition. Since there is not a cure for arthritis, learning ways to slow the progression of arthritis is also important.
The most common symptoms of knee arthritis include:
Pain with activities
Limited range of motion
Stiffness of the joint
Swelling of the joint
Tenderness of the knee
Deformity of the joint (knock-knees or bow-legs)
Treatment of Knee Arthritis
Treatment should begin with the most basic steps and progress to the more invasive, possibly including surgery. Not all treatments are appropriate for every patient, and you should have a discussion with your doctor to determine which treatments are appropriate for your particular situation. The range of options includes:
Probably one of the most important, yet least commonly performed treatments. The less weight the joint has to carry, the less painful activities will be.
Use of a cane in the hand opposite the affected knee, or using walking poles, will help decrease the demand placed on the arthritic joint.
Strengthening of the muscles around the knee joint may help decrease the burden on the knee. Preventing atrophy of the muscles is an important part of maintaining functional use of the knee.
Knee Replacement Surgery
In this procedure, the cartilage is removed from the entire knee joint and a metal & plastic implant is inserted in its place. Knee replacement surgery is among the most commonly performed orthopedic surgical procedures.