Of the 51 million people who suffer from arthritis, osteoarthritis is by far the most common type. Osteoarthritis knee makes everyday activities difficult. It can greatly affect work and may become a serious disability for elderly people, which is why it’s imperative you address this condition early. Discuss your pain with your doctor, and read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of osteoarthritis knee—and how to relieve the pain and get back to your life.
Osteoarthritis is also called wear-and-tear arthritis or degenerative joint disease. Knees are one of the most commonly affected areas. Within the knee joint is articular cartilage, a slippery, fibrous connective tissue that acts as a cushion and keeps bones from rubbing against one another. When the cartilage wears away, it becomes thinner and causes inflammation.
Knee osteoarthritis may affect one or both sides of your knee joint. It usually develops over a year or two and may cause only small changes. But when left neglected, it can cause severe damage that may result in disability or deformity.
What are the Stages of Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
Knowing the stages of knee osteoarthritis will help you understand and expect the condition’s progression, meaning you can keep it under control. Here are the four stages to watch for:
Stage 1: Minor Osteoarthritis Knee
Stage 1 is classified as minor wear. During this stage, you will not likely experience discomfort or feel any pain. While your joints seem normal at this stage, the cartilage is now slightly damaged. A person with stage 1 osteoarthritis knee has small lumps of bone, also known as osteophytes, growing in the knee area.
Stage 2: Mild Osteoarthritis Knee
With stage 2 osteoarthritis knee, the cartilage might still be a healthy size, but there are already signs of wear and more bone spur growth. The tissues and contacting bone surfaces begin to harden. A person with stage 2 osteoarthritis knee begins to experience symptoms.
Stage 3: Moderate Osteoarthritis Knee
At stage 3, the damage to the cartilage is obvious and worsening. The gap between the bones is now narrow, and doctors see clear cartilage loss. Those with moderate osteoarthritis knee experience joint inflammation and feel frequent discomfort during everyday life.
Stage 4: Severe Osteoarthritis Knee
Stage 4 is the most advanced phase of osteoarthritis knee. The gap between the bones is further lessened, and the signs of osteoarthritis are extremely visible. As the friction in the joint increases, so does the discomfort. Severe osteoarthritis knee means little to no cartilage is left.
Causes of Osteoarthritis of the Knee
Several studies have shown that women are at greater risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knee than men. But other key factors play huge roles in the development of the osteoarthritis knee:
Heredity: You are at a high risk if your siblings or parents have had osteoarthritis knee.
Age: The risk of osteoarthritis of the knee increases after age 45. As you get older, the ability of the cartilage to heal weakens.
Obesity: A person who is overweight or obese is more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis in the knee, as increasing weight puts more pressure on all joints.
Athletics: Osteoarthritis knee pain is common in athletic elderly people who are involved in tennis, cycling, or long-distance running.
Overuse: Excessive use of the knee joint—such as frequent squatting, kneeling, or heavy lifting—can cause osteoarthritis of the knee due to the constant pressure on cartilage.
Other Illnesses: Other types of joint diseases, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis, increase the likelihood of developing knee osteoarthritis.
Knee Osteoarthritis Symptoms
Identifying osteoarthritis knee symptoms is key to seeking medical attention quickly and getting on the road to recovery. Signs of osteoarthritis in knee may include:
Hard swellings and stiffness in the knee
Throbbing pain at night and a feeling of weakness
Sudden feeling of warmth in the joint
Difficulty walking, using the stairs, or getting in and out of cars
Loose fragments of cartilage and other tissue that affect the smooth movement of joints
A grinding, crunching, or creaking sensation when moving the knee joint
How is Knee Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?
After identifying the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and discussing personal and family medical history, your doctor will conduct a full physical examination, along with special diagnostic tests, such as those listed below.
Knee X-Ray Osteoarthritis
Apart from revealing cartilage and bone damage, X-rays can detect the presence of bone spurs (osteophytes). An X-ray creates a detailed image of dense structures, such as bone. A knee X-ray may show alarming changes to the bone and unveil a narrowing of the joint area.
Sometimes, an MRI scan is necessary to examine the soft tissues of the knees and determine the severity of the osteoarthritis. A doctor will suggest an MRI scan to obtain osteoarthritis knee pictures if the X-ray does not provide a clear diagnosis.
Osteoarthritis Knee Treatment
Osteoarthritis of the knee is typically a slow, degenerative process, but it may also worsen quickly—in a few weeks or months. Early treatment increases the chances of preserving joint function and integrity for several years, or even a lifetime.
Here are a few effective knee osteoarthritis treatment options to strengthen and stabilize the structures that support the knee:
Osteoarthritis Knee Exercises
Knee exercises for osteoarthritis slow down the degeneration and keep your knee joint flexible and mobile. Try these strengthening exercises, and remember to speak to your doctor before implementing any new exercise regimen.
Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stay near a chair or wall so you can hold on to something for balance.
Step 2: Rise up on your toes, keeping your knees straight. Slowly lower your heels back to the floor.
Step 3: Do 10 to 15 repetitions. Perform this exercise 2 to 3 times per day.
Step 1: Lie on the floor with a resistance band around one ankle. Attach the other end to something strong, like the leg of a table or chair.
Step 2: Bend your knees so the heels nearly touch your butt. Straighten your knee slowly.
Step 3: Relax for a few seconds, then complete 10 to 15 repetitions.
Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight.
Step 2: Bend your knees slowly and pretend you are sitting on a chair.
Step 3: Hold the position for a few seconds, then return to standing. Do at least 10 to 15 repetitions. Stop if you feel pain.
Medication for Osteoarthritis of the Knee
Strong pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, and injections of corticosteroids can help with pain and stiffness. A clinician can administer a viscosupplement to lubricate your knee joints. Make sure to consult your doctor before taking over-the-counter drugs, as taking them for long periods increases the risk of unpleasant side effects. If over-the-counter drugs no longer provide relief, a medical professional may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication to ease the discomfort.
Physiotherapy for Knee Osteoarthritis
If knee pain begins to interfere with your daily routine, physical and occupational therapy can help. Occupational therapists teach you safe and effective ways to accomplish everyday activities, like household chores, with less discomfort. You’ll learn tactics to increase flexibility and strengthen muscles in your joints.
Osteoarthritis Knee Brace
A brace is key to relieving osteoarthritis pain and protecting your joint from further damage. ( See Product)
You can use certain orthopedic products to help stabilize your knees and reduce strain on your joints. An osteoarthritis knee brace, for example, is intended to relieve the symptoms of mild knee osteoarthritis. Whether it is a universal knee brace or a hinged knee brace, these versatile products are designed to give you the support you need.
For treatment and prevention, a knee brace is crucial while exercising. Using a knee brace for workouts will prevent dangerous lateral movement of the knee joint.
Insoles for Osteoarthritis
A pair of high-quality gel insoles are the simplest, most comfortable way to reduce the symptoms of your osteoarthritis. ( See Product)
Gel insoles, on the other hand, can lessen the pressure you put on your knee joints when running or walking. Look for the best knee brace and a pair of high-quality gel insoles to reduce discomfort and prevent further injury.
Knee Surgery for Osteoarthritis
Most elderly people with osteoarthritis in the knee do not need surgery, but those suffering from severe symptoms will need an extensive knee replacement procedure and a long rehabilitation period. Types of surgeries for osteoarthritis in the knee include knee osteotomy, knee arthroscopy, and knee arthroplasty.
After you've healed, you may be able to transition from a knee brace to a compression knee sleeve. Talk to your doctor about the best choice for you.
Relieve Osteoarthritis Knee Pain
Knee osteoarthritis affects elderly people in different ways. Therefore, talk to your doctor about your specific situation, and follow the recovery plan. Try the at-home treatments we listed above to promote healing and relieve your symptoms.
Concentrate on enjoying activities that do not exacerbate your osteoarthritis knee, follow your doctor’s treatment plan, and learn to manage your knee pain in a way that doesn’t interfere with your life.
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