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Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common cause of knee pain especially in older people. Although there isn’t a cure for arthritis, many treatments can be helpful in managing this condition. Understanding this condition is the first step to correct management of your painful knee. This post will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of knee osteoarthritis.
Causes: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition where the cartilage in the knee wears away. Cartilage lines the surfaces of the bones in the knee joint. It provides cushioning for the knee joint. With OA the bone underneath the cartilage can react by growing thicker and broader. Bony spurs called osteophytes can form. This process can happen with advancing age but the process can be sped up with an injury or trauma to the knee joint. Other factors that can cause knee arthritis to develop include weight, occupations involving repetitive kneeling and gender, women are more likely than men to develop this condition.
Symptoms: Knee stiffness is a major symptom of knee OA. This stiffness is normally worse in the morning and can ease out as you move. Pain is also a feature of knee OA. This is usually worse with weight-bearing activities such as walking and climbing stairs. Many people with knee OA report ‘crepitus’ or clicking in the knee with movement of the joint.
Diagnosis: Often a clinical examination is enough to diagnose probable OA of the knee. Your physiotherapist will examine the movement and strength of the muscles and joints around the knee and perform tests on these structures. If needed, an X-ray may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. An MRI scan can be helpful to get a closer look at some of the structures of the knee.
Treatment: Exercise has been shown to be really helpful for reducing pain and improving function for knee pain. Your physiotherapist can advise you on the best type of exercise for you but this may include swimming, cycling, walking and some specific exercises for the muscles around the knee joint. Hands on physiotherapy can be helpful is improving the range of movement in a stiff joint and relieving pain. Reducing the amount of pressure of the knee joint is really important.
Your physiotherapist can advise you tips to reduce the strain on the knee. Simple tips, like using a handrail when climbing stairs, and avoiding keeping the knee bent for too long, can make a big difference. You can discuss the possible benefits of various medications with your doctor. For many people these treatments can be enough to allow people to manage their knee OA. For some people with severe pain or limited movement, surgery may be an option. If you are considering surgery, your physiotherapist can advise you on exercises to strengthen the muscles before your surgery.
Please feel free to contact us for further information.