What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis and a degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown and eventual loss of joint cartilage. Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a cushion between the bones of a joint. With osteoarthritis, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away, allowing bones under the cartilage to rub together.
What causes osteoarthritis of the knee?
Although the root cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, the risk of developing symptomatic osteoarthritis is influenced by multiple factors such as age, gender and inherited traits that can affect the shape and stability of your joints. Other factors can include:
- A previous joint/knee injury.
- Repetitive strain on your knee(s).
- Improper joint alignment.
- Excess body weight.
- Exercise- or sports-generated stress placed on your knee joints.
- Lack of physical activity.
What are the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis?
Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee include:
- Pain while standing/walking short distances, climbing up/down stairs, or getting in/out of chairs.
- Knee pain with activity.
- Startup pain or stiffness when activities are initiated from a sitting position.
- Stiffness in your knee joint after getting out of bed.
- Swelling in one or more areas of your knee.
- A grating sensation or crunching feeling when you use your knee.
How is knee osteoarthritis diagnosed?
At St. Luke’s Medical Center, an experienced surgeon first reviews your medical history and symptoms. He/she observes the natural movement of your knee, evaluates your knee and ankle joint alignment, as well as checks your reflexes, muscle strength, range of motion and ligament stability in the affected knee. X-rays and medical imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be ordered to determine exactly where the damage is and to what extent (i.e. how much joint or bone damage has been done, how much cartilage has been lost and if any bone spurs are present). To obtain a thorough examination, additional tests may be ordered to rule out other causes.
How is knee osteoarthritis treated?
Whether your osteoarthritis is mild or severe, your surgeon may recommend certain lifestyle changes to reduce the stress on your knee joints. Additional disease and pain management strategies may include:
- Physical therapy.
- Steroid injection.
- Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or topical pain-relieving creams.
If your symptoms can no longer be controlled by these types of non-surgical solutions, please phone St. Luke’s Medical Center at 1-877-351-WELL (9355) for a referral to an orthopedic surgeon who performs MAKOplasty®. Depending on the severity of your knee’s condition, you may be a good candidate for surgery.
For patients with advanced knee osteoarthritis, the most common knee treatment is total knee replacement surgery. During this procedure, the natural joint is removed and replaced with an artificial implant. For those patients with early- to mid-stage knee osteoarthritis, the MAKOplasty® partial knee resurfacing procedure may be the more appropriate solution.
Tips for Managing Osteoarthritis
Here are a few tips on what you can do to manage osteoarthritis of the knee:
- Maintain a healthy weight to reduce levels of painful swelling in the joints.
- Know your physical limitations and how to reduce activity when pain persists.
- Take medications prescribed by your physician and stay compliant with your regimen.
- If advised, use assistive devices such as a walker or cane to put less stress on your joints.
- Maintain good posture to reduce the strain placed on your joints.
- Wear comfortable, properly-fitting shoes that support your weight.
- Keep a positive outlook to help manage stress and maintain control of your osteoarthritis treatment.
- Maintain a proactive role in managing your disease so that you can live as close to your normal lifestyle without aggravating your condition.