Osteoarthritis of the knee is one of the most common sources of knee pain. It typically affects patients over 50 years of age and older, but may occur in younger people who have had knee injuries. The disease is a degenerative condition characterized by the gradual wearing away of the cartilage in the knee joint.
Being overweight may cause knee arthritis. Other causes include, trauma to the knee, a meniscus tear, ligament damage, fractures to the bone or a genetic predisposition. Degenerative changes in the joint may also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, a systemic inflammatory form of arthritis.
- Pain with activity
- Reduced range of motion
- Joint stiffness and swelling
- An unsteady feeling that the joint may “give out”
There are a number of different treatment options for knee arthritis. Each patient is unique and some will respond to certain treatments better than others. It is usually best to begin with the most conservative treatments.
- Weight loss – Knee pain is one of the most common complications of being overweight or obese. Every pound of excess weight exerts about 4 pounds of pressure on the knees. For example, a person who is carrying an extra 10 pounds of body weight is putting 40 pounds of excess pressure on his or her knees. The same is true in reverse when a person loses weight.
- Activity Modification – It may be necessary to limit certain activities to avoid putting stress on an arthritic knee. If exercise is causing pain, learning new exercise methods, like aquatic exercise, may be helpful.
- Physical Therapy – Physical therapy is an important method of treatment for almost all orthopedic conditions and particularly for painful knee problems. A physical therapy program can reduce pain, increase strength, restore joint mobility and function and help patients return to their normal life.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medication – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed to reduce knee pain and inflammation from arthritis as well as bursitis and tendinitis.
- Cortisone injection – Cortisone is a powerful medication that may be used to treat inflammation and knee pain.
- Viscosupplementation – A preparation of hyaluronic acid that is injected into the knee to help lubricate the knee joint and relieve pain.
- Total Knee Replacement Surgery – If conservative treatments are not successful and the patient has great difficulty with simple activities such as walking or climbing stairs, then total knee replacement may be an option. In this procedure, the cartilage and bone surface is removed and resurfaced with a metal and plastic implant.
Orthopaedic surgeons are constantly working to develop new techniques to improve joint replacement surgery. New minimally invasive and small incision surgery techniques are being developed for total joint replacement. Because less tissue is cut, these techniques may allow for quicker, less painful recovery and a more rapid return to activities.
Computer-assisted surgery is the newest generation of technology in joint replacement. With the aid of a highly precise computer-imaging system, surgeons are able to create a visual map of the knee. This allows them to see beyond what is possible with the naked eye. Every aspect of the operation is tracked by computer including the surgical instrumentation and the positioning of the implant. This enables the surgeon to achieve extremely accurate implant alignment.