Many people recognize arthritis as a sign of aging, thinking that aching knees are inevitable as they grow older. However, knee arthritis is far from inevitable, and there are ways to manage the condition even when it has already developed. Learning more about knee arthritis should help you understand what you need to do about the condition.
Types of Knee Arthritis
All joints have an internal lining of rubbery tissue called cartilage. This tough material provides cushioning for the internal surfaces of your joints, allowing them to rub on each other with little friction. If this cartilage layer is compromised, it becomes more difficult to move the joint without difficulty and pain. For load-bearing joints such as the knee, the worn-out cartilage can cause adjacent bones to rub on each other.
The knee is susceptible to various forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, the most common type, is a degenerative disease that gradually wears down the protective cartilage layer. The degenerative changes also impact the bone itself and other connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments. Osteoarthritis can affect other joints, but it can take years for the condition to progress and generate symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis is another form of arthritis impacting the knee. With this autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes cartilage and other joint tissues for foreign substances. Immune cells then launch an attack against joint structures, leading to inflammation. The cartilage will break down over time, compromising its ability to protect the joint.
Finally, knee arthritis can also come from physical trauma. The complex structure of the knee and its role in bearing much of the bodyweight makes it vulnerable to injury. Recurring or severe injuries can gradually weaken the joint.
Unfortunately, knee arthritis can worsen over time without appropriate medical intervention. Patients may experience chronic knee pain and inflammation. Knee arthritis is typically accompanied by joint stiffness, making it difficult to move the knee or to bear your weight on the joint. Severe cases of arthritis might limit mobility and make it difficult to engage in daily tasks. Additionally, unresolved arthritis can cause sleep disturbances and indirectly trigger depression.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
Lifestyle Changes and Physical Activity
Once you have received a diagnosis of arthritis, you can coordinate with your doctor regarding treatment options. For mild cases, your doctor will recommend conservative and non-surgical treatments designed to reduce the severity of the disease.
Lifestyle changes are usually recommended in all arthritis cases. If you are overweight or obese, you might benefit from a weight loss program to help you safely lose weight. A lower body weight can reduce the mechanical load on your joints, preventing further damage.
Your doctor will also recommend regular physical activity to help strengthen your muscles and joints. Specific exercises for your knee can stimulate circulation, allowing for the damaged tissue to receive more oxygen and nutrients. These exercises can also reduce pain and inflammation, thus increasing your ability to perform daily activities. You can also learn how to return to your daily tasks without causing additional stress to your knee, through the help of a physical therapist.
Physical activity also reduces your risk of other chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. Overall, exercises can reduce the disability caused by knee arthritis.
Medication and Injections
Your doctor may also prescribe medications to manage your symptoms. Painkillers can help reduce discomfort. Anti-inflammatory drugs are also a suitable option to reduce swelling and inflammation. If over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Prescription NSAIDs have a stronger anti-inflammatory effect and can be taken orally or applied as a topical gel.
A more intensive medication method would be cortisone and lubrication injections. By directly delivering anti-inflammatory substances into your knee, your doctor can better ensure medium-term pain alleviation. Your doctor can also administer a natural lubricant called hyaluronic acid into the joint in a procedure called viscosupplementation therapy.
If more conservative methods cannot bring sufficient relief, your doctor might recommend surgery to correct mechanical issues in your knee. A typical procedure for severe knee arthritis is joint replacement, where your orthopedic surgeon replaces damaged internal structures with artificial joints made of polymer and metal. Knee replacement surgery can enable a return to normal physical activity levels. However, the joint may wear out over time and require replacement.
Another surgical operation is osteotomy, which realigns your bones to divert your weight away from the damaged parts of your knee. In this procedure, the surgeon cuts above or below the knee to either remove or replace a wedge of bone.
Knee Arthritis Treatments in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Arthritis of the knee comes mostly in three common forms and results in the gradual destruction of joint cartilage. Fortunately, several conservative and surgical options exist to treat these conditions. Working with an experienced orthopedic specialist can help you access the treatment you need.
Operating from our facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Paul Meli Orthopedic Surgery has been providing top-notch orthopedic care since 1990. We specialize in treating general orthopedic conditions, helping you obtain lasting pain relief to get you back to the life you love.
Learn more by calling (954) 324-7711 or by requesting an appointment through our online form. We look forward to giving you the care your joints need!