About 27 million Americans live with the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis (OA). Often called “wear and tear” arthritis, this chronic, degenerative condition particularly affects weight-bearing joints, such as the knee. Coping with knee arthritis can be challenging, but in this blog we share tips on how to manage your OA.
Know–And Monitor–Your Symptoms
Knee arthritis develops gradually due to an injury, repetitive motions on the job, strain from sports, from age, being overweight, or can be heredity. Symptoms originate in damage to the supportive ligaments and tendons in the knee joint, as well as to the cushioning cartilage on the ends of the shin and thigh bones. Lubrication from the synovial fluid in the knee may decrease, and painful bone spurs, or osteophytes, may develop.
Symptoms of knee arthritis include:
- Joint swelling, redness and deformity
- Pain at night
- Stiffness first thing in the morning when getting out of bed
- Poor balance
- Changes in gait
- Creaking, popping and grinding noises emanating from the joint upon movement
If you begin to notice some or all of these symptoms, try to track when they occur, how severe they are, how long they last and what may relieve them (taking ibuprofen, for example). Keep a daily record to help both you and your orthopedic doctor determine a treatment plan to manage your symptoms.
Get an Orthopedic Evaluation
When knee arthritis symptoms persist and impact your daily routines or the activities you love, it’s time for an in-office evaluation with a highly experienced orthopedic specialist.
Tell the physician about your symptoms, medical history and current medications. The doctor will inspect your knee and its motion, and further investigate with imaging studies, such as X-rays or an MRI. With this information, the right treatment plan can be put together to control your symptoms and to prevent further joint damage.
Follow Your Knee Arthritis Treatment Plan
Surprisingly, arthroscopic surgery or a joint replacement procedure (arthroplasty) is not always the first treatment of choice. It only becomes likely when the knee arthritis is very severe. Usually, orthopedic specialists will recommend positive lifestyle changes before resorting to less invasive treatments. Your treatment plan could include the following elements.
Contrary to what many people assume, individuals with arthritis–knee or otherwise–should move more, not less. Movement stimulates synovial fluid production, reduces excess body weight and adds strength to supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Light to moderate aerobic exercise–walking, cycling and swimming–is the best choice. Make sure you do 30 minutes three to five times a week. For those needing low impact exercise, swimming has the advantage of natural buoyancy in the water with little to no stress on joints.
Using Adaptive or Assistive Devices When Necessary
Your orthopedic doctor may advise a program of physical or occupational therapy to help train you to cope with your arthritis. The physical therapist can show you how to walk with better balance and stability using a cane or brace. Your occupational therapist also can show you ways to make housework and job tasks safer and less burdensome on your knees and hips.
Both occupational therapists (OT) and physical therapists(PT) may use ice to relieve pain and swelling and heat to improve flexibility and range of motion. Your treatment plan will help you develop better endurance, stability, safety, and confidence in accomplishing your daily routines.
Customized Non-Surgical Treatments
Besides exercise and occupational and physical therapies, you can live well with an arthritic knee if you use over-the-counter pain medications as your physician recommends. Also, the specialist may advise viscosupplementation to increase lubrication in the knee or even innovative platelet-rich plasma supplementation. These injections use your own blood platelets, concentrated and placed into the joint to improve circulation and healing. Cortisone injections are regarded as a tried-and-true intervention which reduces inflammation in the knee.
Top-notch Knee Arthritis Care in Fort Lauderdale, FL
At Paul Meli Orthopedics, our experienced team is passionate about keeping patients independent and pain-free. Dr. Meli is a well-respected orthopedic surgeon, board-certified and fellowship-trained in sports medicine and knee and shoulder procedures. He would love to talk with you about your knee symptoms and how to manage them.
Call today for an in-office consultation: (954) 324-7711, or request your visit with us online. We look forward to getting together soon.