Knee arthritis pain has been a part of human life for hundreds of years. In fact, it can even be found in the texts of the founding fathers of Western medicine such as Hippocrates, Celsus, Galen, and others. As ancient as arthritis pain is, it’s still very present in society today. But what is arthritis, really?
In this article, we’re going to give you the most important information about knee arthritis, how it commonly occurs, how it’s diagnosed, and some popular treatments.
What Is Knee Arthritis?
There are three bones making up your knee joint. They are the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), and the patella (knee cap). The leg muscles are connected to the bones via tendons. In addition, there is protective tissue called cartilage around the ends of the bones. Where the bones come together between the two cartilage ends of the bone are known as joints. As you know, the knee joint comes into play any time you want to bend your leg or make your leg straight – which for most people is very often.
Knee arthritis is the condition that happens when the cartilage that cushions your knee joint wears down. This causes joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and even further damage to the cartilage, tissue, and bone.
The Different Types of Arthritis
There are over a hundred types of arthritis and related conditions, but the two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Let’s take a look at how they affect you differently.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It happens when the cartilage in the knee of one leg or both legs is worn down. This cartilage is the cushion between the various knee bones, and when it erodes, there’s no longer a slick coating for smooth, painless movement. What results is joint motion with severe pain and friction – and sometimes eventually results in bone on bone grinding. Some people consider this to be “wear and tear” arthritis, which tends to happen as people age – though it can also occur through infection or joint injury.
In this type of arthritis, the issue isn’t caused through repetition or “wear and tear”, but instead is caused by our own body’s immune system attacking our knees. The immune system specifically attacks the lining of the knee’s joint capsule. When this occurs, the lining becomes swollen, inflamed, and causes pain. This condition can become even worse and eventually erode away or destroy the bone and cartilage of the knee.
As you can see, both of these types of arthritis affect your knee joint in adverse ways; neither is something you want to experience.
How Common Is Arthritis?
Knee arthritis is more common than you might think. In a recent study, it was found that around 530 million people worldwide suffer from knee arthritis (also known as knee osteoarthritis). Those numbers are staggering, and they indicate that many people are having to suffer from crippling knee arthritis pain every day.
The impact isn’t just physical either – for many, the chronic pain affects their ability to lead the full, fulfilling lives they want. The constant knee pain can severely lower a person’s quality of life and can be emotionally draining – not to mention the negative financial impacts that can occur from paying for management and treatment.
Knee Arthritis Occurrence and Diagnosis
Who is actually susceptible to getting arthritis? There are many circumstances and risk factors that come into play. Here are some of the key things that may play a role in someone getting knee arthritis.
Age: The older a person gets, the higher their risk to develop arthritis due to the “wear and tear” effects mentioned earlier.
Sex: The different sexes are more susceptible to different kinds of arthritis effects. For instance, women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, whereas men are more likely to develop gout. In the case of knee arthritis, women who are postmenopausal are more prone to having osteoarthritis than men.
Family History: Certain hereditary factors play a part in how susceptible a person is to developing arthritis, which can cause an increased prevalence of arthritis in some families.
Weight: When someone puts excess weight and strain on their knees over time it can expedite the wearing down of the cartilage in the knee, causing arthritis to occur earlier than it would otherwise.
Unknown Autoimmune Triggers: The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis isn’t fully known. It is an auto-immune disease so there are triggers that cause it that haven’t been identified yet.
The Most Common Cause of Arthritis
Though there are many factors that play into your susceptibility to arthritis, the most common cause of knee osteoarthritis is age. In fact, it’s likely that most people will eventually develop some amount of osteoarthritis (though it may not occur in the knee).
Arthritis Due to Injury
If you’re injured, you can suffer from what is known as post-traumatic arthritis. Rather than the slow and gradual “wear and tear” of your knee’s cartilage from use, the cartilage is damaged or worn down due to trauma to the knee. Once the cartilage is damaged, the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), and the patella (knee cap) grind together during any kind of movement, even if you slowly bend or slowly straighten your leg. Common causes of arthritis due to injury are sports injuries, falls, and automotive accidents.
Arthritis Due to Health Issues and Disease
There are other health issues that can directly affect your likelihood of having knee osteoarthritis. For example, people with vitamin D deficiencies, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other health conditions are more likely to have osteoarthritis.
Additionally, other developmental issues could lead to knee arthritis. Things like bowleg and knock knee can cause uncommon stress on the knee joints, slowly grinding the cartilage away at points of stress.
No matter the cause of your knee arthritis pain, you shouldn’t have to just live with it. Let’s talk about some knee arthritis treatments that can help you feel some relief.
Knee Arthritis Treatments
When it comes to arthritis in the knee, we want to provide you with some practical, day-to-day pain relief strategies.
Firstly, do your best to focus on your joints, paying attention to how you sit, stand, and what activities you do. Be mindful of how you’re using your joints. Beyond that, consider some of the following things for daily pain management.
Daily Stretches – It’s important to use your joints daily. You should perform stretches that gently pull your joints through a full range of motion, from a hamstring stretch with a straight leg raise to concentrating on the thigh muscles with a bent leg lift.
Use Proper Movements and Posture – Aphysical therapist can help you learn the proper way to stand, sit, and move so you can function your best each day.
Proper Exercise – Believe it or not, when you suffer from arthritis, the right kinds of movement can actually decrease stiffness and pain. One way to do this is by doing the right knee exercises that focus on the muscles around your joints, but don’t tax your joints directly. Some popular choices include water exercises, cycling, and low-impact walking or light aerobic exercises. Here at Academy Orthopedics, we can develop an exercise program that’s perfect for you and your specific needs.
Over-the-Counter Medications – The proper usage of over-the-counter medications can help quite a bit in your daily pain management strategy. Things like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen can help to reduce swelling and pain.
Injections – Cortisone injections into the knee joint can significantly reduce knee pain and swelling. Other types of commonly used injections include visco-supplements (hyaluronic acid), Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), and stem cells. Let the orthopedic specialists at Academy Orthopedics help you decide which option is best for your knee.
Avoid Making Your Knee Arthritis Worse
Here are some things you should consider avoiding to prevent your arthritis from becoming more painful.
High-Impact Exercises – Doing the wrong exercises can make your arthritis worse. Anything high-impact such as tennis, running, basketball, etc. can be brutal to your arthritis.
Added Sugar – There is added sugar in more foods than most people realize. In a study by the National Library of Medicine, foods with added sugars were most frequently reported to worsen arthritis symptoms. Check nutritional labels for added sugars – and not just on candy and treats. Foods like ketchup, flavored yogurts, applesauce, and many more can be sneaky sources of added sugar.
Processed Foods – Foods that are highly processed – such as sugary breakfast cereal, fast food, and junk food, among others – are high in many preservatives, additives, and other ingredients that can potentially cause inflammation.
Tobacco – smoking is harmful to your connective tissue, bones, and joints, so it can make your arthritis worse.
Alcohol – Various studies have shown that drinking alcohol may be linked to worsened arthritis and gout attacks.
Consider cutting these things out for a week to see if there is any change. Ideally, you can cut them all out for two weeks. And, then slowly introduce each one to see which one has negative effects on you.
In some cases, the daily management of painful joints becomes more and more difficult until it eventually becomes unmanageable altogether. In cases like these, surgery is usually the next step.
Are you having difficulty living with the pain you’re in each day? Is your pain getting worse as time goes on? Can you barely do a knee exercise or a leg stretch? Are your medicines and other self-treatment plans failing you? IF so, surgery might be the best choice for you.
Here at Academy Orthopedics, we look at every individual and see exactly what they need for their knee arthritis. There are several surgeries available for knee osteoarthritis. They are:
Arthroscopy – A camera about the size of a pen is placed inside your joint. Equipped with a fiber-optic lens, it allows the doctor to see into your knee joint and identify bone fragments, damaged cartilage, and cysts – and then remove them. This is minimally invasive, typically only requiring a few small incisions.
Arthroplasty – Also known as a total joint replacement. In this surgery, the surgeon would remove the damaged parts of your bones and replace them with prosthetics. While this drastically reduces pain, it also does have a longer recovery time.
Osteotomy – A very difficult surgery, and the results aren’t always as effective as other knee surgeries when it comes to reducing or eliminating pain. During this procedure, a surgeon would cut a piece of your bone near the damaged portions of your knee and then add a “wedge” of bone to attempt to relieve pressure.
Is surgery right for you? We won’t know until we give you a proper, formal consultation. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the list of options. In fact, don’t feel the need to diagnose yourself or make a decision about knee surgery alone. The team at Academy Orthopedics always has a patient’s best interests in mind and will help you choose the perfect surgery or other treatment for the very best health outcomes.
Academy Orthopedics Can Help with Your Knee Arthritis
Academy Orthopedics specializes in giving you the absolute best care available for your knee arthritis pain. We carefully look at every case and assess what the best care plan is and guide you on a journey to health and wellness. We never rush people into surgeries they don’t need. And, will do everything in our power to help you find the right path to a happy, pain-free life.
We’re not some big medical conglomerate. We’re a family-owned, family-operated practice where every one of our patients is a part of our family. Certainly, we’re able to offer shorter wait times to our patients. Plus, our support staff and physicians are able to give you the face time you deserve.
You don’t have to suffer from your knee pain due to arthritis another day. Let’s have a conversation about how arthritis affects your life and schedule you for a consultation to see how treatment can help. Take the first step to a pain-free life, and call us now at 770-271-9857. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!