Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is a common condition. Millions of people develop it after engaging in activities that wear down the knee cartilage, which protects the bones of this joint. As the protective cartilage slowly wears down through continuous use and stress, irreversible damage to the affected joints may occur.
Overview of Osteoarthritis
Pain management and other forms of treatment can reduce the discomfort and improve the range of motion even if the condition can’t be reversed. Lifestyle choices can play a role in either exacerbating or relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
In addition to the treatment options covered later in this article, there are also many simple changes that you can make to relieve symptoms and prevent the osteoarthritis from getting worse. This includes maintaining weight that is proportionate to your height, for example.
Where and Why Does Osteoarthritis Develop?
Osteoarthritis is most likely to happen in the joints that bear the weight of the body. This is the reason why the hips and knees are most likely to be affected. Other joints might also be impacted; it can happen when there is prolonged and repetitive use of the wrists or fingers, for example. Although considered a disease that’s related directly to wear and tear, osteoarthritis also affects the joint capsule as well as the articular cartilage and underlying bone surfaces.
The lining of the joint often becomes inflamed; all of these areas will produce pain. A significant decrease in the function and range of motion in the area is also likely. Effectively, the entire joint region is impacted. This includes the connective tissues that wrap around the bone of the joint and the muscular attachments to the insertion point of the bone, for example.
Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis
The knee is the largest joint in the human body, and it absorbs a lot of the impact from walking, running and standing. Bones in the knee joint are separated by cartilage, which protects and lubricates the joint of the knee. There are two pieces of cartilage in the middle of the knee joint called menisci, which simply means crescent-shaped. These rubber-like discs provide the entire joint with a slippery surface that can move without friction. Bursa are the small sacs that cushion and lubricate the joint while absorbing shocks.
The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis include the following:
- Pain: This ranges in intensity, and it can be felt either during or after motion.
- Inflammation: Swelling and loss of motion often occurs in the soft tissues around the joint.
- Spurs: As the pressure and friction increase on the bones of the knee, spurs might form on the parts of the bone that are no longer protected by the cartilage and menisci.
- Loss of motion: Pain and inflammation make it harder to move the joint normally.
- Unusual sensations: This can include grating, crackling or popping; stiffness is also common after sleep or periods of inactivity.
The deterioration of the cartilage between the knee bones is a common symptom of knee osteoarthritis. This reduces the capacity of the knee joint to provide shock absorption and protection. In cases where all the cartilage is worn down, the bones rub against each other, and this is excruciating. In less severe cases, the common symptoms will be stiffness and joint pain with some inflammation and swelling.
Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms of osteoarthritis:
- The intensity and quality of the pain varies from one person to another, so the treatment plan must be individualized.
- Mild symptoms that are intermittent can often provide an early warning. Get a diagnosis if your pain comes and goes.
- Osteoarthritis tends to have a slow onset and increase in severity over time, so get diagnosed early whenever possible.
- Severe pain can often be avoided by early detection and diagnosis.
- Once the pain is so intense that it interferes with daily life, more extreme therapies might become necessary.
- The quality of pain is often described with terms like grinding, crackling and grating.
- The intensity of the pain can range from mild to severe; it can even become debilitating.
Osteopathy Treatments for Knee Osteoarthritis
Osteopathy is a treatment modality that targets the root of the problem. This includes a detailed analysis of the whole body in order to determine the cause of the symptoms in the knee. Treatments in other forms of manual therapy will often focus only on the immediate area where the pain is concentrated.
Osteopathy seeks to provide a structural analysis of the relations between the affected area and distally located areas. The root of the pain is often located in these distal places. This approach can confuse patients when given a treatment for the knee that includes protocols for the shoulder girdle, for example.
Specific Treatment for Knee Osteoarthritis
There is no cure for knee osteoarthritis; however, it’s important to work with a practitioner to develop a treatment plan that addresses the pain and dysfunction adequately.
- Painkillers: These might include nonsteroidal anti-inflammation drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin or acetaminophen.
- Side-effects are common when taking pain-killers, especially proscription medications and steroid shots for extended periods of time.
- Joint surgery is an option for cases that require a total joint replacement; this option is usually delayed until physical therapy and medications are tried, and this is only appropriate in certain cases.
New treatments for knee osteoarthritis are constantly being researched and developed:
Hyaluronic acid, or hyaluronate injections:
Hyaluronic acid is produced endogenously, which means that it is manufactured within the body. As hyaluronate is a core element of synovial fluid, this substance lubricates the joint. It can help to restore the fluid in the joint capsule of the knee. Hyaluronic acid is viscoelastic; its elements keep the bone from being injured. Direct hyaluronate injections uses ultrasound imagery, and doctors have used this method for around two decades. It improves shock absorption while also lubricating the joint.
Mesenchymal stem cells, or MSC:
This therapeutic approach seeks to stimulate the growth of new cartilage tissues. This is a developing mode of research in the early stage with ongoing clinical trials. The treatment cost alone is a significant barrier for many patients. In addition, a 2016 publication reviewed MSC therapy, and it mentioned that even though potential benefits were promising, more studies were still needed to determine best practices.
Bone marrow aspirate concentrate:
This technique is similar to the one used in MSC therapy. It uses bone marrow instead of MSCs to be injected into the knee in the hopes of growing new cartilage and reducing local inflammation.
Other research and clinical trials are ongoing.
Gentle exercises that improve circulation in these joints can also help reduce pain and improve the function of the entire area. Aging and previous incidents of trauma can also be factors in the severity of the condition, so it’s important to have a qualified professional help you to choose the right kind of low-impact exercises to help you lose weight and improve circulation safely.
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- Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid Injections for Osteoarthritis
- Osteoarthritis Management and Self Care