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Knee Arthritis Treatment, Causes and Symptoms

Arthritis in Knee

Experiencing discomfort, reduced mobility, and inflammation in the knee, especially in the morning, could be a sign or symptom of knee arthritis.

When it comes to moving around with ease and grace, especially as we age, developing stiffness, swelling, or pain in one or both knees can be particularly challenging.

This is why it’s important to be able to identify knee arthritis symptoms if they develop and take advantage of effective treatment methods in order to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

What is Knee Arthritis?

Arthritis is a disease that leads to inflammation, discomfort, and stiffness, and tends to affect the body’s joints. It is a very common condition in the knees, with symptoms that can range from mild and irritating to debilitating.

Left untreated, the pain can seriously impact a person’s mobility and ability to function normally on a day-to-basis.

There are many different types of arthritis that can occur in in the knee, as well as other parts of the body.

The three most common types of knee arthritis include:

1. Osteoarthritis in the Knee

Osteoarthritis is generally the most common type of knee arthritis. This condition develops as the cartilage in the knee joint wears down and causes the three bones in the knee joint to rub together.

This leads to significant painful symptoms that, unfortunately, tend to worsen over time and with age.

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Knee

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints. Normally, inflammation in healthy joints is caused by an injury, infection, or some other external issue.

But those who with suffer rheumatoid arthritis develop those same painful symptoms in the knee even in the absence of an infection or injury.

3. Post-Traumatic Arthritis in the Knee

Post-traumatic arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis that develops after significant trauma to the knee. This might be caused by a sports related injury, a car accident, or even years and years of repeated overuse of the knee.

Like osteoarthritis, cartilage in the knee wears down, causing the bones of the knee to rub together and lead to symptoms. This type of arthritis can develop years after trauma to the knee occurs.

Knee Arthritis Symptoms

Symptoms of Arthritis in the Knee

Anyone can develop arthritis in the knee, though people over the age of 50 are at a higher risk, and women tend to develop the condition more often than men.

Understanding the symptoms of knee arthritis is important for addressing the issue as early as possible.

Common Knee Arthritis Symptoms can Include Some of the Following:

  • Pain and swelling in the knee
  • Skin around the knee that is red or even warm to the touch
  • Discomfort and pain in the knee that develops slowly, but it can also come on quickly
  • Popping, clicking, or grinding noises with knee movement
  • Stiffness in the joint, along with a decrease in range of motion
  • Locking or sticking of the knee joint during activity
  • Buckling of the knee or feeling as if the knee will not support the body
  • Problems walking normally, especially when going up or down stairs

What Causes Knee Arthritis?

The exact cause of arthritis in the knee is not completely known, though research has revealed genes that are linked to the development of the disease.

There are, however, other known risk factors that increase the likelihood for developing the condition.

Typical Causes of Knee Arthritis Include:

  • Age is one of the main risk factors for developing osteoarthritis in the knee
  • Being overweight also plays a role as the joints are under greater pressure
  • Developmental abnormalities in the bones that make up the knee joint may lead to arthritis in the joint
  • Episodes of gout, which is another type of inflammatory arthritis, may also lead to osteoarthritis in the knee
  • Overuse injuries or repeated stress on the knee from sports, a physically demanding job, or years of a very active lifestyle

Effective Knee Arthritis Treatment Methods

Diagnosing arthritis in the knee usually begins with a review of a person’s symptoms, medical history, and physical activities that may contribute to the condition.

After a physical examination of the knee, healthcare providers generally order x-rays or an MRI to get a visual picture of the bones and soft tissue inside the knee joint, which can reveal arthritis and rule out other issues.

While it’s not possible to entirely get rid of arthritis in the knee, effective treatment approaches can help decrease many of the painful and uncomfortable symptoms to a more manageable level.

Knee Arthritis Treatment

Knee Arthritis Treatment Approaches Include:

1. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil) will help reduce swelling and pain in and around the knee joint.

2. Ice or Cold Compress

Applying ice or a cold compress to inflamed areas of the knee after activity will help decrease inflammation that causes pain.

3. Exercise and Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on arthritis in the knee. Maintaining a healthy weight, combined with an exercise regimen that favors low impact movements, such as swimming and biking, can help reduce stress on the knee.

4. Knee Brace

Wearing a support brace or sleeve on the knee, as well as properly cushioning footwear during physical activity is a good way to decrease pressure on the knee joint.

5. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be useful for learning how to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, as well as employing stretching techniques and exercise to improve flexibility and range of motion.

6. Prescription Medications

Prescription anti-inflammatory medications or creams may help alleviate some pain and discomfort associated with arthritis in the knee. These are generally stronger than over-the-counter pain meds like ibuprofen and should be used as prescribed by a doctor.

7. EPAT / Shockwave Therapy for Knee Arthritis

EPAT / Shockwave Therapy for knee arthritis has shown to provide relief from symptoms, specifically for osteoarthritis.

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT), or simply Shockwave, is a non-invasive and painless method for treating pain and healing a wide range of musculoskeletal injuries.

A Shockwave Therapy Machine uses low or high-energy acoustic pressure waves to improve blood flow and circulation, decrease inflammation, reduce scar tissue, and accelerate healing and recovery.

A study published in Pain Medicine showed that Shockwave Therapy had a beneficial effect on both relieving pain and also improving physical function for osteoarthritis of the knee.

EPAT / Shockwave Therapy is even used by many sports medicine professionals to speed up ACL surgery recovery for athletes after knee operations.

8. Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are a form of regenerative medicine that has been shown to improve tissue function and reduce swelling in inflamed tissue. How long the effects of PRP injections last will vary for each individual.

9. Corticosteroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections are a type of steroid shot that may be an option for reducing swelling and inflammation for temporary relief of symptoms. However, steroid injections can damage healthy, surrounding tissue in the knee and should only be used sparingly whenever possible.

10. Surgery

Surgery is usually reserved for those with knee arthritis that’s no longer treatable with less invasive methods. Surgical procedures can range from a partial to full knee replacement. In some cases, surgeons can also remove tissue damaged by rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s important to note that surgery comes with inherent risks and will require a significant healing and recovery time.

It is recommended to use the non-invasive knee arthritis treatment methods discussed here at the first sign of symptoms to avoid the possibility of requiring surgery.