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Knee Arthritis

Three bones meet at the knee joint. Covering the ends of these bones is cartilage, a strong, smooth, rubbery substance that allows the bones to glide over one another when you bend or straighten your knee The most common type of arthritis in the knee, osteoarthritis, is caused by a gradual breakdown of cartilage. As the cartilage erodes, the bones ultimately rub against each other, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness Athletes, particularly those who play high-impact collision sports that place tremendous stress on their knees and put them at risk for serious injury, are at greatest risk for osteoarthritis

Knee Arthritis Hero Image 2

Three bones meet at the knee joint. Covering the ends of these bones is cartilage, a strong, smooth, rubbery substance that allows the bones to glide over one another when you bend or straighten your knee. The cartilage surfaces are coated by a thin film of lubricating fluid, known as synovial fluid. Thanks to synovial fluid, a normal joint moves with far less friction than ice moving on ice.

The most common type of arthritis in the knee, osteoarthritis, is caused by a gradual breakdown of cartilage. As the cartilage erodes, the bones ultimately rub against each other, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. Though commonly associated with aging, this form of arthritis can affect anyone. Athletes, particularly those who play high-impact collision sports that place tremendous stress on their knees and put them at risk for serious injury, are at greatest risk for osteoarthritis. Knee arthritis can be debilitating, and there is no cure. However, there are ways to treat and manage arthritic pain so that you can remain active.

What causes Knee Arthritis?

There are many causes of knee arthritis. In athletes, however, traumatic injury is often the event that initiates joint cartilage breakdown. Advancing age and being overweight or obese also are related to developing knee arthritis.

Athletes, particularly those who participate in high-impact collision sports that repeatedly put significant contact stress on the knee (especially at elite levels), are prone to developing knee arthritis. Such sports include:

• Long-distance running
• Soccer
• Wrestling
• Weight-lifting
• Tennis
• Football
• Rugby

Symptoms

Common symptoms of knee arthritis typically include activity-related pain, stiffness, and swelling of the knee. Other common symptoms include:

• Pain after intense activity or inactivity
• Stiffness that fades with exercise
• Stiffness that is worse in the morning
• Difficulty bending or straightening the knee
• Feeling that your knee is weak or buckling
• A sense of catching, popping, or grinding with movement of the knee

When to see a doctor

If you have these symptoms, consult with your doctor. During your visit, you will be asked to provide a medical history, including your level of physical activity (both before your symptoms began and current activities). Your doctor will conduct a physical exam, looking for:

• Swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joint
• Range of movement of your knee
• Instability of the knee joint
• Problems with the way you walk, such as a limp or lurch

After the physical examination, your doctor may recommend an x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. These imaging tests provide detailed pictures of the bone and cartilage that make up your knee. They can help your doctor confirm the diagnosis and gauge the extent of the condition. Blood tests may also be ordered to rule out other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Lyme disease.

Non-operative treatment

Though there is no cure for arthritis and the changes are irreversible, there are several treatment options. Knee arthritis is always initially treated non-operatively. Your doctor may recommend a number of options including:

• Over-the-counter medications such as tylenol or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication like ibuprofen
• Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight
• Limiting activities that aggravate the knee, like climbing stairs, squatting, or pivoting
• Physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles around the knee and extend your range of motion
• Wearing a brace to provide stability and support

If you have symptoms of knee arthritis here are some exercises you can try at home

Knee Arthritis

Surgical Treatment

If non-surgical treatment is not effective in relieving your symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery. Depending on the extent of the knee arthritis, there are different surgical treatment options available. Your doctor will indicate the appropriate surgical option to best meet your needs and the condition of the joint.

Recovery

Recovery time after surgery will depend upon the type of surgery you undergo. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy after surgery to help restore muscle strength in your knee and expand range of motion. Temporary use of assistive devices, such as a knee brace, crutches, or cane, may aid your rehabilitation. With time, surgery is usually effective in relieving knee pain caused by arthritis and allowing a return to daily activities.

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