Have you got osteoarthritis in your knee? Struggle with everyday tasks? Suffer with unnecessary pain? Would like to find a good support for your knee?
Then please take time to read this bog which will describe what osteoarthritis is and more importantly the ways in which you can improve function and comfort.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, commonly known as wear-and-tear arthritis, is a condition in which the natural cushioning between joints ‘cartilage’ wears away. When this happens, the bones of the joints rub more closely against one another with less of the shock-absorbing benefits of cartilage. The rubbing results in pain, swelling, stiffness, decreased ability to move and, sometimes, the formation of bone spurs.
What causes osteoarthritis of the knee?
The most common cause of osteoarthritis of the knee is age. Almost everyone will eventually develop some degree of osteoarthritis. However, several factors increase the risk of developing significant arthritis at an earlier age.
- Age. The ability of cartilage to heal decreases as a person gets older.
- Weight. Weight increases pressure on all the joints, especially the knees. Every pound of weight you gain adds 3 to 4 pounds of extra weight on your knees.
- Heredity. This includes genetic mutations that might make a person more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee. It may also be due to inherited abnormalities in the shape of the bones that surround the knee joint.
- Gender. Women aged 55 and older are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis of the knee.
- Repetitive stress injuries. These are usually a result of the type of job a person has. People with certain occupations that include a lot of activity that can stress the joint, such as kneeling, squatting, or lifting heavy weights (55 pounds or more), are more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee because of the constant pressure on the joint.
- Athletics. Athletes involved in soccer, tennis, or long-distance running may be at higher risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knee. That means athletes should take precautions to avoid injury. However, it’s important to note that regular moderate exercise strengthens joints and can decrease the risk of osteoarthritis. In fact, weak muscles around the knee can lead to osteoarthritis.
- Other illnesses. People with rheumatoid arthritis, the second most common type of arthritis, are also more likely to develop osteoarthritis. People with certain metabolic disorders, such as iron overload or excess growth hormone, also run a higher risk of osteoarthritis.
What are the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis?
The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and stiffness in your joints, which can make it difficult to move the affected joints and do certain activities.
The symptoms may come and go in episodes, which can be related to your activity levels and even the weather. In more severe cases, the symptoms can be continuous. You should see your GP if you have persistent symptoms of osteoarthritis so they can confirm the diagnosis and prescribe any necessary treatment.
Other symptoms you or your doctor may notice include:
- Joint tenderness
- Increased pain and stiffness when you have not moved your joints for a while
- Joints appearing slightly larger or more “knobbly” than usual
- A grating or crackling sound or sensation in your joints
- Limited range of movement in your joints
- Weakness and muscle wasting (loss of muscle bulk)
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but the most common areas affected are the knees, hips and small joints in the hands. Often, you’ll only experience symptoms in 1 joint, or a few joints at any 1 time.
If you have osteoarthritis in your knees, both your knees will usually be affected over time, unless it occurred as the result of an injury or another condition affecting only 1 knee. Your knees may be most painful when you walk, particularly when walking up or down hills or stairs. Sometimes, your knees may “give way” beneath you or make it difficult to straighten your legs. You may also hear a soft, grating sound when you move the affected joint.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?
The diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis will begin with an examination by your doctor. Your doctor will also take your medical history and note any symptoms. Make sure to note what makes the pain worse or better to help your doctor determine if osteoarthritis, or something else, may be causing your pain. Also find out if anyone else in your family has arthritis. Your doctor may order additional testing, including:
- X-rays, which can show bone and cartilage damage as well as the presence of bone spurs
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
MRI scans may be ordered when X-rays do not give a clear reason for joint pain or when the X-rays suggest that other types of joint tissue could be damaged. Doctors may use blood tests to rule out other conditions that could be causing the pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis, a different type of arthritis caused by a disorder in the immune system.
What are the treatment options for knee osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a long-term condition and cannot be cured, but it doesn’t necessarily get any worse over time and it can sometimes gradually improve. Several treatments are also available to reduce the symptoms. The primary goals of treating osteoarthritis of the knee are to relieve the pain and return mobility.
Mild symptoms can sometimes be managed with simple measures including:
- regular exercise
- losing weight if you’re overweight
- wearing suitable footwear
- Using devices such as braces. There are two types of braces: “unloader” braces, which take the weight away from the side of the knee affected by arthritis; and “support” braces, which provide support for the entire knee.
If your symptoms are more severe, you may need additional treatments such as painkillers and a structured exercise plan with a physiotherapist.
In a small number of cases, where these treatments haven’t helped or the damage to the joints is particularly severe, surgery may be done to repair, strengthen or replace a damaged joint.
If you feel you need some extra help in finding a support or brace to improve your knee osteoarthritis symptoms then please contact us here at Total Body Orthotics for guidance. if you have any questions please contact a member of our team using our online enquiries form.
You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org