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Knee Arthritis Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery

The knee is the largest and strongest joint in your body, made up of the lower end of the femur (thighbone), the upper end of the tibia (shinbone), and the patella (kneecap). The ends of these bones are covered with articular cartilage, which protects and cushions the bones as you bend and straighten your knee. Knee arthritis occurs when the cushioning cartilage in the joint wears down, resulting in the knee becoming stiff and experiencing pain with certain movements. Knee arthritis often makes it hard to perform everyday activities, like walking or climbing stairs. Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are several effective treatment options available to help manage pain and keep people healthy and active.

Types of Knee Arthritis

The three forms of arthritis that affect the knee are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and posttraumatic arthritis. Today, we will go into further detail explaining the signs and symptoms, along with effective treatment methods used at JIS Orthopedics.

Osteoarthritis. This is the most common form of knee arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. Without that protection, your bones will rub against each other, resulting in pain, stiffness and limited movement. In some cases, it can also lead to the development of bone spurs. Osteoarthritis tends to worsen over time.

Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks multiple joints throughout the body, including the knee joint. This disease is symmetrical, meaning it typically affects the same joint on both sides of the body.

Normally, a healthy immune system will cause inflammation when it’s trying to protect the body from an infection, injury, toxin, or another foreign invader. The inflammatory response is your body’s way of protecting itself. However, rheumatoid arthritis causes the person to have an unhealthy immune system that triggers inflammation in your joints, even when there’s no foreign invader or threat. The inflammation causes pain, stiffness and swelling of the synovial membrane, which can also wear away your cartilage.

Posttraumatic Arthritis. This form of arthritis develops after an injury to the knee. For example, a broken bone from a car crash or contact sport may damage the joint surface and lead to arthritis years after the injury.

Causes, Signs and Symptoms of Knee Arthritis

Unfortunately, most known causes of knee arthritis happen to be unpreventable. Those factors include:

  • Genes
  • Bone Anomalies
  • Aging
  • Injuries

The best steps you can take to help prevent knee arthritis from occurring are maintaining a healthy weight, along with avoiding activities that put a lot of stress on your knees.

There are many signs and symptoms of arthritis in the knee:

  • Creaking, clicking, grinding or snapping noise (crepitus).
  • Difficulty walking
  • Joint pain that changes depending on the weather
  • Joint stiffness
  • Knee buckling
  • Skin redness
  • Your knee locks or sticks when it’s trying to move
  • Warm skin

Pain and swelling are the most common symptoms of knee arthritis. Some treatments might reduce the severity of your symptoms, or even stall the progression. If you think you may be suffering from knee arthritis, we recommend that you see your healthcare provider immediately.

knee arthritis

Diagnosis

During your appointment, your doctor will discuss your symptoms and medical history with you, along with conducting a physical examination, and possibly order diagnostic tests, such as an X-ray or blood test.

During the physical examination, your doctor will look for:

  • Joint swelling, warmth, or redness
  • Tenderness around the knee
  • Instability of the joint
  • Range of active and passive motion
  • Crepitus (a grating sensation inside the joint) with movement
  • Pain when weight is placed on the knee
  • Problems with the way you walk
  • Involvement of other joints (to indicate rheumatoid arthritis)

Tests like x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be executed in order to help provide a detailed structure of the bone and the surrounding tissue. This can help distinguish among the various forms of arthritis.

Knee Arthritis Treatment, Non-Surgical

Treatment plans can vary depending on your age, the stage of your arthritis, severity of the pain, and several other factors. Cartilage loss cannot be reversed, but there are ways to reduce pain and prevent further damage. Nonsurgical treatments of knee arthritis used at JIS Orthopedics include:

  • Lifestyle Modifications that may keep joint pain and inflammation from flaring. These modifications include avoiding high-impact exercises, such as running and jumping. It’s important to make sure you are engaging in low-impact exercises and remaining physically active in order to manage your symptoms.
  • Physical Therapy is ordered by your doctor to gradually improve strength and range of motion.
  • Weight Loss is recommended in order to reduce stress placed on the knee.
  • Bracing is often provided to stabilize the joint.
  • Medications and Injections such as hyaluronic acid injections, to control pain and inflammation and promote healing.
  • Walking Aids such as a cane or a walker, to provide additional support.

The progress of knee arthritis and effectiveness of nonsurgical treatments varies. Your doctor will work with you to develop a personalized plan that best fits your lifestyle and road to recovery.

Knee Arthritis Treatment, Surgical

If nonsurgical treatments aren’t working for you, it may be time to discuss surgical options with your doctor. These options consist of:

  • Radiofrequency ablation to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.
  • Total Knee Replacement to resurface the bones in the knee joint with artificial implants, providing more long-term stability and pain reduction.
  • Partial Knee Replacement to address cartilage damage in a small portion of the knee.
  • Synovectomy to remove the lining of the joint damaged by rheumatoid arthritis.

In most cases, surgery relieves pain and makes it possible to perform your everyday activities again.

Recovery / Healing

After undergoing any type of surgery for knee arthritis, there will a period of recovery that follows. This recovery time varies heavily based on the severity of your condition and the form of surgery that is executed. Depending on your procedure, you may need to wear a knee brace or use crutches for a period of time.

JIS Orthopedics can diagnose and treat your injury, and help you recover

Think you may be suffering from knee arthritis? It is important to make sure you address your situation before it progresses any further, and prevents you from doing the things you love. Schedule an appointment with JIS Orthopedics today! We’d love to help you get your body back on track!

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