Knee joint is one of the largest and most complex joints in your body. It consists of a shin bone, thigh bone and knee cap. Durable, elastic material called articular cartilage acts as a shock absorber, providing smooth sliding of adjacent bones. Synovial membrane covers the interosseous space or the joint cavity, producing the synovial fluid, which is a thick substance that performs lubricating function and provides the smoothness of the surface of your knee joint. This is how a healthy knee joint functions and looks like.
Arthritis in knee begins with the gradual destruction of cartilage. In the absence of cartilaginous tissue bones begin to rub one another, causing pain, loss of mobility and deformation or your joint. Synovial fluid in such a joint is less dense and resilient than in a healthy knee joint.
Doctors distinguish four different types of knee arthritis:
- Degenerative arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis. It is the most frequent type of arthritis that affects knee joints. The disease is characterized by gradual wearing of knee joint cartilage. Usually it occurs to people of middle age and to senior people;
- Septic arthritis. It usually occurs to one knee joint as a result of an infection;
- Rheumatoid knee arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory process that destroys articular cartilage. This type of arthritis can develop at any age. The disease usually affects both knees;
- Post traumatic arthritis. Usually a knee injury or trauma causes this kind of arthritis. Post traumatic arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis as it can develop over several years after the injury.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Knee
Those who have knee arthritis complain of pain in the front part of their knees. Pain worsens in the position of partial bending of their legs. At the same time walking up and down the stairs and getting up from a sitting position becomes painful or even impossible. Sometimes it gets difficult to drive, because pain enhances while depressing pedals.
It is important that the majority of people suffering from arthritis in knee do not correlate the first appearance of pain with any particular episode of overload or trauma. Pain does not occur at the time of injury and inflammation as a response to damage develops slowly, so pain arises only when the inflammation becomes vivid. Usually it takes several days after injury. Thus, people as a rule do not see the causal link between an injury and arthritis pain.
Early signs usually include pain of different intensity. Arthritis pain, as a rule, develops gradually, but it can appear suddenly as well. Symptoms of arthritis in knees and legs also include swollen and stiff joints. It becomes difficult to bend and straighten your legs.
Pain and swelling particularly aggravate in the morning or after a passive rest. However, pain can intensify after walking, climbing up the stairs and standing on your knees. One of the knee arthritis symptoms is a feeling of weakness in your knees, “sticking” of your knee joints and loss of steadiness.
Many people complain of arthritic pain strengthening due to weather changes.
Medical Checkup and Knee Arthritis Treatment
To diagnose knee arthritis your doctor will study your gait, check your range of motions and examine the degree of swelling and pain in your knees. He or she will ask you to undergo radiography, which can show narrowing of your knee joint space. Sometimes your doctor can ask you to do blood tests and other diagnostic procedures such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm the diagnosis.
Non-Invasive Methods of Treatment
If you suffer from osteoarthritis of knee, you can try traditional and modern methods of treating this disease without surgery. Only one in four patients with osteoarthritis has to undergo a surgery. However, efficiency of each method depends on the particular case. You and your doctor should decide what treatments to choose in your case of knee arthritis.
Usually knee arthritis treatment consists of relieving pain, increasing functional activity of your joints and general alleviation of the symptoms. That is why knee pain relief products take main place among medication for arthritis.
In the early stages of arthritis in knee doctors try four major groups of non-operational methods. To cure arthritis they suggest:
- changes in lifestyle;
- therapeutic exercises. Many of them you can do at home;
- adaptive devices;
- other methods that help to ease pain.
The changes you can make in your life presuppose losing extra weight, doing less intensive sports, for example, transition from running and jumping to swimming and bike riding. You should also limit actions that exacerbate discomfort in your knees, such as climbing up and down the stairs. Most people with knee arthritis are overweight. Normalization of body weight helps to reduce loads on your joints. Loosing couple of extra kilos can relieve pain and increase your mobility.
Knee Exercises for Arthritis
Therapeutic physical exercises increase movement function and flexibility of your joints, as well as strengthen your leg muscles. Physical activity together with physical therapy is successfully used to treat arthritis in its mild form. Your therapist will help you to create an individual program of physiotherapy, coordinating it with your needs and lifestyle.
Knee Braces for Arthritis
Using devices such as canes, orthopedic footwear, knee braces for arthritis, and kneepads is another way for you to return to active life. Knee braces are particularly effective for removing localized pains by fixing and stabilizing the position of your knee joint. Other treatments for knee arthritis involve exposure to heat and cold, applying ointments, hydrotherapy, use of elastic bandages, etc.
To treat arthritis of knee doctors use various types of medicine. Your doctor will prescribe drugs, taking into account your state and your individual reactions to this or that agent.
The first task in arthritis medical treatment is to reduce pain and swelling of your knee joint. For this purpose doctors prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers.
You should remember that all drugs including standard analgesics have their own side effects. That is why it is necessary that you inform your doctor about any changes in your state. It may also happen that over time the medicine you take stops working. It can be because your body develops resistance to some drugs you take for a long time.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Sometimes doctors prescribe glucosamine and chondroitin to reduce arthritis pain. These two supplements are natural components of articular cartilage. Use of glucosamine and chondroitin can be effective at the early stages of knee arthritis, if you follow the requirements specified in the package insert.
These additives reduce inflammation and swelling and increase motor function of the joint. To achieve the necessary therapeutic effect you should take them for at least two months.
Although glucosamine and chondroitin are natural remedies and are considered to be biological supplements, they can cause headaches, stomach upset, nausea, vomiting and rash. These substances interact with medicine, so you should inform your doctor about all the drugs you currently take.
Another potent means are corticosteroids. They are strong anti-inflammatory drugs administered intra-articularly. Corticosteroid also known as cortisone is a natural substance that belongs to hormones. It has analgesic and anti-inflammatory action.
Enhancing of the Synovial Membrane Function by Hyaluronic Acid Injections
Increasing of astringent function of synovial membrane is a method for improving motor function of your joints by increasing the density of the synovial fluid. This procedure creates smooth connecting surfaces of knee joints. Such treatment measures consist of a series of intra-articular injections aimed at replenishing the synovial fluid.
Usually inflamed joint contains less synovial fluid than a healthy joint. Within a week you need to have three to five injections for temporary pain relief.
Alternative Methods of Treatment
The most popular alternative methods include acupuncture, using home remedies and magnetic pulse therapy. However, you should know that many of these alternative procedures have no scientific approval.
Acupuncture specialist uses thin metal needles to stimulate particular energy spots of your body to alleviate pain or cause temporary numbness.
Magnetic pulse therapy is a completely painless method, which consists in applying a pulsating signal surrounded by an electromagnetic field to your knee. Like many other types of alternative medicine, magnetic pulse therapy still does not have any science-based confirmation.
Surgical Method of Treating Arthritis
If all of the above-mentioned methods of treatment appeared to be ineffective in your case or you have a severe arthritis in knee, you may need surgery.
There is a number of surgical procedures to cure arthritis. Among them are:
- Arthroscopy. It is a minor surgery, during which a doctor can look inside the inflamed joint and remove destroyed tissue from under knee cap or repair the damaged cartilage;
- Osteotomy, which is a dissection of the tibial or femoral bone aimed at returning the correct position of the bones of the knee joint;
- Complete or partial arthroplasty. This procedure involves replacement of extremely damaged joint cartilage with metal or plastic analog;
- Transplantation of cartilage is used for knee cartilage with partial loss of cartilaginous tissue due to trauma or arthritis in the knee cap.
Orthopedic surgeons carry on looking for new ways of treating arthritis in knee. The subject of the current research is exploring new drugs, methods of transplantation and other techniques aimed at slowing the progression of knee arthritis.