Knee arthritis is called Knee Osteoarthritis by many physicians [this is to distinguish it from Rheumatoid Arthritis]. Knee Osteoarthritis is a slow breakdown of the cartilage ends of the bone [not meniscus cartilage] where we have joints, BUT without a known cause. Why the joint cartilage breaks down or does not grow correctly [often over a 10 to 20 year process] has been difficult to figure out, by many researchers, for many years. If knee arthritis is very aggressive it becomes severe in one’s late 40’s or 50’s. If it is less aggressive, it can become severe in a person’s 70’s. Some people may not have knee osteoarthritis but have hip or lumbar, even shoulder, arthritis.
Because arthritis causes pain, fatigue, and decreased movement, moving the knee may be one of the best treatments, and something we keep in mind here at Jones Physical Therapy. Arthritis can also cause decreased joint space, swelling, bone spurs, and joint grinding called crepitus. Knee osteoarthritis is often diagnosed with a simple X-ray. And it affects over 13% of the world’s population over 40 years of age.
One of the most common treatments for knee arthritis is exercise and it is common for Physical Therapy providers, including Jones Physical Therapy, to suggest exercise [and physicians, also], because exercise seems to be so effective for knee pain. Treatment for knee osteoarthritis frequently involves
- Arthritis education
- Exercise therapy
- Heat or cold treatments
- Activity modification
- Advice on weight loss and diet
- Knee bracing
Commonly the first prescribed physician treatments for many patients with knee osteoarthritis includes patient therapeutic exercise with Physical Therapy.
A combination of supervised exercises and a home exercise program have been shown to have the best results for improving pain and stiffness. But this improvement can commonly quit helping after 6 months if exercises are stopped.
Specific physical activity may not only improve joint mobility, it can also improve the overall quality of life. Jones Physical Therapy feels it is important to strengthen the knee, trunk, hip and ankle muscles. And much of the arthritis research indicates that patients with arthritis of the knees have less knee pain from strengthening exercises.
In many phases of knee arthritis, weight loss can help the symptoms, also. A good way known to help weight loss is diet control and low-impact aerobic exercise.
Knee bracing can be effective for symptoms, but braces may need the help of a physician, due to the X-ray help that a medical assessment may provide.
Some medicines that are used for arthritis include:
- Acetaminophen or Tylenol
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Medicines called COX-2 inhibitors
- Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate
- Corticosteroid injections
- Hyaluronic acid (HA)
Some of the simple medicines above and Physical Therapy are considered by many to be THE first-line treatment for patients with knee osteoarthritis. There are many NSAIDs on the market, and we should all be careful taking them, learning more about them, and paying attention to their side effects.
Corticosteroid injected into the joint by a physician may be useful for symptomatic knee OA.
Intra-articular hyaluronic acid injections (HA) injections are another inject-able option. Local delivery of HA into the joint acts as a lubricant and may help increase the natural production of HA in the joint.
If all of these do not help, surgery may be the last ditch effort to help someone with knee osteoarthritis.
Here at Jones Physical Therapy, we are ready to help you with your knee osteoarthritis and any pain problems you have, just call us and we can often get started right away.