Knee Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Arthritis)
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a form of arthritis which involves wear and tear of the cartilage between the joints of the body. When the cartilage wears down, there is more friction between the bones of the joints and less shock absorption which can cause pain and stiffness. This is different from rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder that tends to show with swollen joints.
OA can be found in any part of the body, and most commonly the joints we use often. In this article, we will discuss knee osteoarthritis and how to manage the condition. Understand that the goal of a treatment plan is to manage pain and to slow down the progression of the condition. It does not mean the joint can return to its original state, especially after extensive wear and tear have occurred.
The knee has two compartments, the medial and the lateral compartment. Medial knee OA is more common than lateral knee OA.
There are also varying stages of OA – from mild, to moderate to severe. It is possible to see deformation in the knee with more severe OA, and thickening of the knee structures from bone spurring.
The only way you can know if you have OA is if a standing X-ray, or similar imaging test, is performed. This will be referred by your physician.
Age – Healing ability decreases as we age
Weight – The more weight you have, the more strain on your knees and lower limbs
Gender – Women are more likely to develop OA
Heredity/bone structure – More bow legged or genu valgum position of the knee would lead to more pressure on the compartments.
Overuse – Overusing the joint can lead to higher risk of OA
Injuries and other illnesses – Previous injuries can make a person more susceptible to OA, or conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can affect the joint structure as well.
Symptoms include swelling, stiffness in the joint, decreased mobility, creaky (crepitus) in the knee when flexing or moving the knee, and pain that becomes worse with weight bearing.
These conservative treatments should be considered for all patients:
- Exercise/Physiotherapy – It is important to have an exercise program to work on strengthening the surrounding musculature. This will help to decrease pain, and to improve fluidity and range of motion. It will also help with weight loss(see next)
- Weight Loss – If weight is an issue, losing weight can help to reduce significant pressure on the knee
- NSAIDs and Pain-relievers – As necessary and prescribed by your doctor
- Custom Orthotics – To improve alignment from the feet up, to make sure any excess rotational forces are reduced. Depending on the foot type and affected OA compartment, a lateral wedge can also help to align the lower limb so that the joint space may be opened up
- Proper Footwear – Good cushioning, strong heel counter and shank to give good support.
- Knee Braces (custom vs over-the-counter) – Custom unloader brace helps to open up the joint space by putting pressure on the unaffected side of the knee. OTC braces can be anything from a compression knee brace to a hinged brace, and compression can help to reduce swelling and improve blood flow to the area.
- Corticosteroid and HLA injections
- Surgery – The last resort, which would be discussed with your orthopedic surgeon
Talk to an Expert!
Kintec provides not only custom orthotics, but also a variety of bracing products and footwear. If you have concerns or need help with starting on your treatment, do not hesitate to contact us or stop by your nearest Kintec location.