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3 Things You Need To Know About Knee Osteoarthritis

Updated: Apr 20, 2019

Knee osteoarthritis is a condition that affects mostly adults and senior citizens. In this article, we will explore what you can do to manage the condition.

Here are three things we will highlight relating to knee osteoarthritis:

  1. Knee Osteoarthritis = Joint Space Narrowing In Your Knee Joints

  2. Who Are The People That Are More Susceptible To Knee Osteoarthritis?

  3. How to treat Knee Osteoarthritis?

1. Knee Osteoarthritis = Joint Space Narrowing In Your Knee Joints

This article is an introduction to the topic and some of the information you need to know to help you manage the condition.

When a person starts to experience some pain in their knees, it could be an onset of knee osteoarthritis.

Before we discuss joint space narrowing in your knee joints, first let's revisit the anatomy of the knee to help you understand the relationship between different parts of our knee joints.

1a) The anatomy of the knee joint

The bones that form the joint are held together by two components.

These two components form a synovial joint or what is known as a capsule joint. The two parts are:

  • An outer fibrous later called the articular capsule that is also supported by ligaments that provide joint stability

  • An inner membrane layer that contains synovial fluids and wedged discs (meniscus) to absorb movement shock as well as ensuring smooth gliding via the articular cartilage in between the joints

1b) A diagram to compare a healthy knee vs knee affected by osteoarthritis

Refer to the picture below for a side by side illustration of the condition.

1c) What Causes Joint Space Narrowing that Leads To Knee Osteoarthritis?

Knee Osteoarthritis is known as a degenerative condition.

It means that once the degenerative process occurs, it will not heal completely, but we can manage the disease to prevent it from causing further aggravation.

A patient who gets diagnosed with Knee Osteoarthritis will likely experience pain and discomfort due to the following reasons:

  • The cartilage in the liquid capsule that is providing smooth gliding starts to degenerate, and the gap between the bones keep reducing until the two bones eventually come in contact with each other

  • The rubbing contact between the bones causes a lot of pain because they are surrounded by pain sensors on the surface of the bones

  • The meniscus starts to degenerate or tear and it compromises its shock absorbing function which leads to swelling and movement problems causing more pain as the condition progresses if left untreated

  • Bone spurs could develop when the bones are inflamed as a result of the joint space narrowing and eventually rubbing. Bone spurs could cause problems such as pain, numbness, tenderness, and weakness if they are irritating adjacent tissues but bone spurs do not present any symptoms if the growth is mild during the early stages.

2. Who Are The People Who Are More Susceptible To Knee Osteoarthritis?

As our legs and knees power our movement, our knees are part of the process involved in supporting and distributing the impact and the weight of our bodies on our legs.

Knee osteoarthritis affects all walks of life primarily for adults.

Children and healthy young adults don't tend to experience any symptoms of osteoarthritis until the later stages in their lives as degeneration is associated with older age.

Here are some risk factors that contribute to knee osteoarthritis:

  • Degeneration due to old age because the natural abilities for your cartilage to heal reduce as you age especially for adults over the age of 50 years old

  • Overuse or wear and tear due to physical activity of the knee cartilage due to excessive impact on the knees.

  • These will more likely impact athletes such as marathon runnersInjury from work or an old trauma from the past caused by aggravation. For example, dancers working in the performing arts industries

  • Having a family history of arthritis may increase the likelihood of developing knee osteoarthritis due to genetics

  • Physical deformities on the legs associated with knee osteoarthritis including bow legs or knock knees

  • Sudden weight gain or a history of obesity

  • The condition adds more strain onto a person's knees causing potentially more pain.

3. How to treat Knee Osteoarthritis?

Before a person seeks treatment, they will develop some symptoms with the most common one being some level of pain or discomfort in the knees.

Note that the pain could also cause discomfort in other parts of the body as a result of knee osteoarthritis.

For example, sudden weight gain can aggravate the knee pain that leads to lower back pain, insomnia and other digestive problems.

The symptoms include:

  • Pain or discomfort. You start to experience difficulty to manoeuvre your way around your daily activities including getting up from your seat, climbing the stairs or walking long distances. It may begin with some level of discomfort because leading to continuous pain.

  • Joint swelling. As the condition in the knee degenerates further, the body reacts by compensating for the inflammation and pump in excessive fluids into the joints (known as effusions), and the bulge can be visible to the naked eye. These are however limited to acute cases of knee osteoarthritis.

  • Stiffness. It affects patients especially after long periods of inactivity whereby a patient experiences delay in their movement and require more time before they can mobilise. For example, getting out of bed in the morning or rising from a recliner seat after watching a movie.

  • Creaking or popping sounds in the knees. Patients may experience these symptoms as a result of the misalignment of the knee joints though they don't cause pain.

Here are three conventional methods most people try out from the moment they start to experience symptoms of knee pain:

  • Topical creams or gels. These are anti-inflammatory gels and creams for self-care designed to provide some temporary relief, but it is not a long-term solution. For mild cases and with a period of rest and rehabilitative exercises, a person can manage the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis

  • Physical therapy. A person would seek physical therapy when the symptoms start to cause more pain and swelling. Physiotherapy and acupuncture are excellent to help manage knee osteoarthritis. Physiotherapists would also prescribe supportive wear such as knee braces, straps or walking sticks to help to manage the pain and stiffness

  • Medical and surgical. For complex cases, a person may have to resort to surgical procedures and painkillers to mask the pain. Due to the complexity of surgical procedures, we recommend for you to seek help from doctors or specialists before considering the procedure.

Specialist Treatments For Knee Osteoarthritis at Spine and Joint Clinics

We provide specialised care for musculoskeletal health conditions such as knee osteoarthritis. These include:

  • Physiotherapy

  • Chiropractic and osteopathy

  • Knee arthritis bracing

  • 3D FEET customised insoles

  • Shockwave therapy

  • Japanese acupuncture

Refer to some of the images and the video below for further reading:

Above: Dr Boden explaining what knee osteoarthritis is and how we provide treatment at Spine and Joint.

Above: Images of the advanced knee bracing to provide passive support for knee osteoarthritis.

Above: Jonathan, the head of Physio from our branch in Kuching sharing more about treatment using the Unloader One knee brace with Sin Chew.

Above: Jonathan, the head of Physio from our branch in Kuching sharing more about treatment using the Unloader One knee brace with The Borneo Post.

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