Osteoarthritis of the knee occurs mostly in adults, ages 55 and above, primarily because of weakened joints due to aging. But, this condition does not only happen to them; the younger ones are also affected. Factors like injuries and hereditary are some of the common contributors to the causes of osteoarthritis. To know more about osteoarthritis of the knee and some frequently asked questions, read on.
Osteoarthritis of the Knee | Definition and FAQs
What Is Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
Osteoarthritis of the knee is a type of arthritis that affects the knee joints. The cartilage of the joints starts to wear away, allowing the bones to rub against each other more closely. This results in aching, inflammation, stiffness, difficulty in moving, or development of bone spurs.
What Are the Causes of Osteoarthritis of Knee?
- Aging. Aging is the most common cause of knee osteoarthritis. As people age, the knee joint’s cartilage has a reduced ability to recover from hyper-flexing and forceful twisting. The cartilage can either be damaged or torn, depending on the severity of the condition.
- Hereditary. This cause can be due to genetic mutations that make the body develop osteoarthritis of the knee. Another reason is the inherited bone abnormality. This abnormality affects the shape of the bones around the knee joint.
- Excess Weight. Being overweight adds more pressure on the knee joints. The knees are one of the points of the body where weight pressure is more focused on, especially when attempting to stand from sitting. An extra pound of weight adds 3 to 4 times more pressure on the knees.
- Athletics. Athletes have a higher risk of getting knee osteoarthritis at an early stage. They tend to stress their joints more than those who are not active in sports. Professional runners and soccer players are some of the types of athletes who are more prone to osteoarthritis.
- Repetitive Stress Injuries. This cause deals with repetitive tasks on a daily basis, which usually involves work. Activities like squatting or kneeling can trigger osteoarthritis. Quickly kneeling or squatting in a consistent manner may force the joints to put more pressure during the process.
- Other Illness. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a cause for developing osteoarthritis of the knee. This condition is an autoimmune disorder causing inflammatory joint symptoms all throughout the body. The inflammation can increase the osteoarthritis’ underlying degenerative nature present in the joints.
What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
- Knee Ache. This is the most obvious symptom of osteoarthritis. The patient can feel joint aches during or after any movement. But, it will get better with a bit of leg rest.
- Stiffness. Stiffness usually occurs after a period of inactivity. This is because the patient is only doing one position for a prolonged time. When he or she wakes up in the morning or have been sitting for quite a while, joint stiffness may be felt.
- Tenderness and Warmth. The joints may be tender when there’s a little pressure placed on them. Extra fluids surrounding the knees are the reason for this. The joints may feel a bit warm, too, because of the swelling.
- Grating Sensation. The patient can feel a grating sensation when his or her joints are active. Commonly, he or she can hear a cracking or popping sound when he or she stands up. The reason behind this is a portion of the patient’s cartilage starts to wear away. As a result, rough surfaces of the bones appear, rubbing against each other and creating that sound.
- Reduced Flexibility. The flexibility of the joints may not be the same as before the patient’s osteoarthritis diagnosis. He or she may have difficulties in moving his or her joints in its full range. Simple movements before the diagnosis may be hard or impossible, too.
- Bone Spurs. Bone spurs are the formation of tiny bones around the joints. These bones feel like hard lumps surrounding the affected area. They can also cause joint aches and discomfort.
What Are the Osteoarthritis Treatments?
- Physical and Occupational Therapy. If osteoarthritis of the knee is keeping the patient from doing his or her daily tasks, physical and occupational therapists can help. The physical therapist teaches the patient how to strengthen muscles and enhance joint flexibility. The occupational therapist shows him or her helpful methods of doing daily tasks with lesser aches.
- Braces. If the patient is looking for support, braces are a good option. He or she can use the unloader braces that “unload” the weight of the side of the knee with osteoarthritis. But, if he or she wants full support for the knee, the patient can use the support braces.
- Alternative Therapies. There are many alternative remedies the patient can apply to his or her condition. Topical creams can help relieve joint aches as they have properties that get rid of aching. Acupuncture treatment is also one as it promotes the chemical activities in the body that are responsible for eliminating aches.
- Steroids Injection (Hyaluronic Acid). Steroids are known to be powerful in getting rid of the inflammation. Hyaluronic acid is present in the joints, which is responsible for its lubrication. Injections of hyaluronic acid add to the supply the joints need.
- Anti-inflammatory Medications. Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and naproxen are some examples of anti-inflammatory medications. It is not recommended to take these medications for more than 10 days. If these medicines are not helpful, consult a doctor right away.
- Stretching Exercises. Although full-range motions are difficult, a stretching exercise helps keep the flexibility and mobility of the joints. It also strengthens the muscles surrounding the knees that aid in stabilizing the joints. The patient should do this regularly or as per his or her doctor’s advice.
- Weight Loss. If the patient is overweight, it is advisable to lose some excess amount. As explained earlier, excess weight can add more weight pressure on the joints. So, he or she should try to lose weight even just a small amount as it can already help reduce aches on the knee.
- Surgery. If all of these don’t work, surgery is another option. Surgery may apply if the condition is getting worse. Arthroplasty, osteotomy, and arthroscopy are the choices.
How to Prevent Osteoarthritis of the Knee
- Weight Control. The concept here is simple. If the patient’s weight is healthy, he or she should try to keep that weight to prevent any risk of osteoarthritis of the knee. But, if he or she is overweight, as what was previously mentioned, the patient needs to cut down some amount.
- Strengthening the Quadriceps. The quadriceps are those muscles located in front of the thighs. A research reveals that strengthening these muscles can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. Try adding quads exercises into your regular workout routine to strengthen those muscles.
- Prevention of Getting Knee Injuries. Getting a knee injury when a person is still young puts him or her at risk for osteoarthritis in the same joint when he or she is old. When a knee injury occurs, immediate treatment must be done to avoid complications. It’s even riskier if the patient gets a knee injury when he or she is already old because his or her joints are weaker than when he or she is still young.
- Eating Healthily. Omega-3 and vitamin D are good for the joints. Omega-3 is a healthy fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation, while vitamin D aids in relieving aches on the knee. Some sources of Omega-3 are fish oil, soybean, walnuts, and canola. Ideal sources for vitamin D are salmon, tuna, eggs, and cereals.
Watch this video about a non-surgical treatment of osteoarthritis from Healthline:
Knowing what osteoarthritis of the knee is all about helps people understand the trouble this disease brings. What they learned from this also serves as their guide on how they can avoid the condition. In case some symptoms are experienced, treat it right away, or consult a doctor immediately. Just follow these suggested preventive measures for osteoarthritis and worry no more about joint aches!
Do you have other ways to prevent osteoarthritis of the knee? Share them in the comments section!