Osteoarthritis of the Knee: Marching On Through the Pain

Osteoarthritis of the Knee

What Is Knee Osteoarthritis or Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

Every bone is surrounded by cartilage, or a flexible, thick tissue, in a sense. This tissue is meant to protect not only the bones but the joints connecting these bones. Clearly, this is an important feature of the skeletal system, so the wearing down of this cartilage is undoubtedly painful and surely has detrimental consequences to the body as a whole.

In relation to the knee, this cartilage serves perhaps the most important purpose, due to the fact that this is an area that receives the most pressure and strain in the body. When this tissue begins to break down, the joint then begins rubbing against the connecting bone and results in the painful condition known as knee osteoarthritis. This is a chronic condition that grows worse by the day without professional treatment.

Extreme Pain: What are the Other Symptoms and Common Complaints?

There is no denying that the strongest symptom of knee osteoarthritis is extreme, debilitating knee joint pain. This symptom vastly contributes to other complications, including:

  • Protrusion of the impacted area.
  • Redness that ensues from the inflammation.
  • Chronic pain that escalates during walking, running, standing, and sometimes even while sitting.
  • A warm sensation to the touch, which results from the high concentration of excess fluid and friction from the joint and bone.
  • Stiffness that is more prominent when first waking up, or that results from sitting too long.
  • The mobility of the knee decreases drastically, which results in difficulty sitting, getting in and out of a car, riding a bike and, often, walking.
  • A cracking sound when the knee moves.
  • The knees, over time, will begin forming inward, or bowed as it is commonly known.
  • The muscles around the joint begin looking very weak and thin.
  • Knees giving way to the pressure, which commonly results in falls.

Of course, each patient is dissimilar and experiences certain symptoms differently. Where some experience all of the signs, other patients might only experience the pain and swelling, essentially. Depending on the extremity of the knee osteoarthritis, the signs and complaints differ drastically, including the times of day that patients will even experience the most fervent pain. Typically, though, the highest level of pain is experienced at night and upon waking up.

How to Diagnose Knee Osteoarthritis: Is There a Cure?

Those with knee osteoarthritis will begin experiencing some pain during their everyday activities. As this pain continues to worsen and begins affecting non-strenuous tasks, it is undoubtedly time to visit a physician.

Upon a patient’s visit to their doctor or even an Orthopedist, the professional will execute a thorough examination of the area, and will also make note of the patient’s medical history and the symptoms they are provided with. It is essential that patients report all of their symptoms, and include any actions that make the pain worse or that even abate the signs.

From here, a physician will typically want an x-ray of the area or even magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). X-rays not only show the bone but can even display the surrounding cartilage; MRIs provide the most insight, though they are only necessary when an x-ray does not provide adequate results deemed satisfactory by the doctor. Aside from these tests, a blood test might be ordered to rule out other serious conditions, including miscellaneous cancers and rheumatoid arthritis. Each of these tests will conclude a primary diagnosis, and will determine the necessary treatment to abate the issue.

There is currently no known cure for knee osteoarthritis, but it is manageable with specialized treatment that is continuously monitored. This chronic condition has a multitude of treatment options that professionals are more than happy to provide patients with.

From Severe to Mild: How to Treat Knee Osteoarthritis

The primary focus of treating knee osteoarthritis circulates abating the knee joint pain and regaining mobility to the affected area. Doing this entails the execution of the following actions:

  • Occupational or psychical therapy: Physical therapists will teach patients exercises that will gain strength back in the knee as well as flexibility. They will also teach patients how to perform daily tasks, like housecleaning, driving, and walking up the stairs without as much pain.
  • The use of a knee brace, like an unloader or supportive brace. An unloader brace takes the weight off of the affected area, while a supportive brace keeps the knee in place by offering strength.
  • Pain-relievers or anti-inflammatory medication: Doctors recommend trying mild pain relievers for around a week. If the pain does not decrease, they will probably prescribe a stronger drug.
  • Exercise: Mild exercise, including walking, is a solid way to regain mobility of the area without causing too much pain.
  • Weight loss: Doctors recommend maintaining a healthy weight that coincides with the correct height. This ultimately alleviates the strain and pressure that is added to the area.
  • Corticosteroid injections: These injections reduce the inflammation of the area, and even reduce the pain.
  • Hyaluronic injections: This injection acts as a lubrication for the joints, which directly decreases the pain, swelling, and redness.
  • Surgery in extreme cases where the other options prove ineffective.

Regularly utilizing these methods and medications will make dealing with this condition easier, though knee osteoarthritis will never subside entirely.

A Quick Guide on How to Prevent Knee Osteoarthritis

This condition is only prevented by remaining aware of your body, its conditions, and its limitations. The failure to maintain a healthy weight puts great strain on the joints in a manner that will deteriorate the cartilage more rapidly; the failure to exercise regularly reduces mobility and flexibility of the area, which will ultimately cause knee osteoarthritis. Even if a person does not experience pain when they are running or exercising, in general, it is greatly encouraged to wear supportive braces to act as a shock absorber to prevent the degeneration of the connective tissues as well.

Osteoarthritis of the knee can also be genetic, so understanding a family medical history is crucial, and following up with a physician regularly to ensure that the condition is not developing is essential.

Closing: Living with Knee Osteoarthritis

To summarize, this chronic, painful condition is not enjoyable, by any means. It often affects the way that people are able to live their daily lives, and the growing soreness often leads to bouts of depression and feelings of hopelessness. Over 20% of the population deals with some extent of knee osteoarthritis, which makes it a fairly common and manageable condition.

Knee osteoarthritis is easily prevented by maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle each day. Routine exercise in which a person responsibly wears a brace prevents the deterioration of the cartilage, and keeping thin alleviates unnecessary strain to that portion of the body. Tracking any signs and reporting them accordingly is the most effective means to manage this condition and slow down the process of degeneration.

Conclusively, few people wish to live with any pain–especially pain that hinders their daily performance. Knee osteoarthritis is incredibly common and treatable, but it is a condition that entails great responsibility and mindfulness of one’s actions. The failure to recognize knee osteoarthritis early can result in the need for a surgery that requires a lengthy recovery process that, sometimes, causes more pain. An awareness of this condition and how to treat it is of the utmost importance as a preventative technique.