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Knee Osteoarthritis: Understanding and Treating for a Path to Relief

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As we age, the process of regenerating tissues and the healing capacity in our bodies becomes more challenging, which can result in injuries, which often take longer to heal than at a younger age. The joints are susceptible to this—particularly the hips and knees, which are weight bearing joints and undergo significant use throughout our lives. Osteoarthritis, a common joint condition, frequently impacts these joints. It is a direct result of a decrease in the cartilage that helps resist compressive forces and a buildup of inflammatory factors and has a significant impact on function and disability in individuals.

We have C-shaped rings of protective cartilage surfaces, known as the medial and lateral menisci, that sit on the ends of the thigh bone. There is also cartilaginous material that sits atop the tibia. The menisci serve as shock absorbers to the knee joint, and the cartilage helps the knee joint to glide efficiently. Either or both of these structures may start to degrade and decrease shock absorption capabilities, acting as a precursor to knee osteoarthritis. This can lead to increased pain compared to when the joint has fully functional menisci and cartilage.

Undoubtedly, this process comes with its fair share of pain. Osteoarthritis the most prevalent form of arthritis, with the knee being the joint most impacted by this. Fortunately, advancements in science and technology have collaborated to support patients with osteoarthritis, aiming to reduce associated symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Causes and Impact of Knee Osteoarthritis

While several factors contribute to the development of knee osteoarthritis, the strongest predictors include: being female, increased body mass index (BMI), early degenerative changes such as chondromalacia, previous trauma to the knee joint, occupations that require frequent kneeling or squatting, participation in high-impact sports, and altered joint mechanics. The underlying cause, however, is the gradual wear and tear of the cartilage. Numerous other factors contribute to risk of developing knee osteoarthritis, including postural defects, genetic predisposition, and more.

Currently, there is no definitive “cure” for osteoarthritis. However, there are treatment options available that can alleviate discomfort and enhance the natural function of the knee joint.


Recognizing the Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis

Recognizing the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis is the initial step toward implementing an appropriate treatment plan. Typically, patients with osteoarthritis first notice pain that intensifies following activity such as walking, climbing stairs, or stiffness after a period of immobility, such as waking up in the morning.

Although the symptoms can vary from person to person, the most common ones remain consistent. Joint stiffness, pain, swelling, and limited range of motion are frequently observed in diagnosed patients.

Here is a detailed overview of these symptoms:

  • Joint stiffness: Individuals may experience stiffness in the knee, especially after prolonged sitting or upon waking up in the morning. This stiffness typically subsides after 20 to 30 minutes or after moving around for a few minutes.
  • Swelling: The affected joint may feel spongy, warm, and visibly swollen to the touch. Swelling is often a result of inflammation, causing fluid buildup within the joint.
  • Joint pain: Pain in the knee joint tends to worsen when subjected to more intense stress. Relief is usually experienced at rest (unless rest is prolonged). Various factors can influence the level of pain, including genetics, brain and central nervous system processing changes, the condition of peripheral tissues (muscles, ligaments, etc.), diet, and even mood. 
  • Creaks and crackles: Patients often report a “creaking” sensation in the knee joint called crepitus
  • Joint and muscle dysfunctionCompensatory movements by surrounding joints like the hips and ankles can lead to signs of altered gait mechanics or decreased motion at the knee joint. Weakness in the ankle, hip pain, and other joint imbalances are not uncommon in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Treatment Options for Knee Osteoarthritis

The management of knee osteoarthritis involves various approaches based on the patient’s lifestyle, age, and progression of the condition. OssKin presents three effective and recognized methods for pain relief and preventing further progression of knee osteoarthritis:

  • Lifestyle adjustmentsLifestyle habits significantly impact the management of knee osteoarthritis symptoms. Engaging in low-impact activities that are gentle on the joints, such as swimming, biking, the elliptical, and walking, can help reduce pain and improve mobility. Strengthening of the surrounding musculature can help to offload the knee joint as well. Physical therapy can help with improving cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy weight is crucial, as excess weight adds force to the knees. A supervised weight loss program is worth considering for overweight individuals, as it can positively impact symptom management and overall health.
  • Foot orthosisA custom-made foot orthosis is placed inside the shoe, providing pressure reduction and pain relief. By redistributing loads favorably across the lower limb joints, foot orthoses offer one pain treatment option for many individuals with knee osteoarthritis.
  • Knee orthosisA knee brace plays a role in optimizing the space between the bone surfaces of the knee joint. This reduces friction, the main source of pain associated with knee osteoarthritis. The Evoke knee orthosis is specifically designed to alleviate knee compartment pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Treatment Options for Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis pain can quickly become incapacitating for those affected. However, there are effective solutions and management strategies. To discover the most relevant solutions for your specific needs, it is advisable to contact one of our experts at OssKin to help manage your knee osteoarthritis and improve your quality of life.


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