According to the Arthritis Foundation, an estimated two million individuals in the U.S. under the age of 45 exhibit symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. The number of knee arthritis cases rises exponentially in individuals 55 and above (close to six million).
Arthritis of the knee can be painful, uncomfortable, and disrupt many daily activities such as bending, kneeling, squatting, and even getting dressed. Persistent pain is a likely sign that there’s a serious problem and should not be ignored.
If you’ve been dealing with knee pain, you may have osteoarthritis. Take a look at how to identify the symptoms of knee arthritis, how the condition is diagnosed, and how a joint replacement can vastly increase comfort, improve mobility, and offer a return to the active lifestyle you love.
The good news is, you don’t have to continue to suffer. Rest assured that at Rothman Orthopaedics, we’ll do everything possible to help you find a solution to the pain and discomfort caused by knee arthritis.
Arthritis of the Knee: Identifying Symptoms and Diagnosis
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, occurs when protective cartilage in a joint wears away over time. As this cartilage becomes worn, the knee may become progressively painful after certain activities. Once the cartilage is completely worn away, the bones in your joint will start rubbing against one another, which causes more severe pain and swelling.
Posttraumatic arthritis is another common form of the disease. It can develop after a direct injury to the knee takes place. An injury such as a meniscal tear, fracture, or ligament tear can cause instability and joint damage that eventually leads to arthritis. For this reason, it is imperative that patients seek care as soon as an injury occurs.
Some general symptoms of knee arthritis include:
- Stiffness and swelling in the knee joint
- Difficulty bending or straightening the knee
- Pain that increases following prolonged periods of rest
- Buckling of the knee accompanied by pain and/or weakness
- Sensation of locking or catching in the knee, sometimes producing grinding or clicking
- Limited range of motion or motion limited by pain
- Pain with stair climbing or prolonged walking
Schedule an appointment with a doctor if you experience any of the above for more than a few days. Your physician will determine the presence of arthritis of the knee by conducting a full examination including a thorough physical evaluation. Imaging tests of the knees may be ordered to confirm a diagnosis or the extent of your condition. Together these two examinations will determine the level of arthritis and creation of a custom treatment plan.
Treatment for Knee Arthritis from a Rothman Specialist
After your doctor determines that you are dealing with knee arthritis, you have a number of treatment options available to manage your symptoms. You and your doctor will work together to come up with a plan of treatment methods that are right for you.
Non-surgical treatment methods will typically be used first, to avoid any unnecessary invasive surgeries. Many who deal with knee arthritis have a lot of success with these types of methods.
Non-surgical treatment method options include the following:
- Activity Modifications: It’s likely you’ll need to reduce your amount of daily exercise or avoiding high-intensity workouts that put pressure on your knees.
- Weight Loss: Losing weight can alleviate your knees of some pressure, if necessary. This can decrease your discomfort and may improve mobility.
- Doctor-recommended Medications: Over-the-counter or prescribed pain medications may be advised. They will reduce the inflammation which results in less pain.
- Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is a program of strengthening exercises that can benefit patients with knee arthritis. Ask your knee specialist who she or he recommends for physical therapy in your area.
- Injections: Corticosteroids are injected directly into the joint to reduce inflammation so your bones don’t rub against each other as you move your knee.
If these measures fail to calm or control your symptoms, you may be appropriate for a knee replacement.
Joint Replacement Surgery
Once arthritis has reached an advanced stage of irreparable deterioration and damage of the cartilage, you may benefit from knee replacement surgery. Knee arthritis cases that haven’t improved from nonsurgical treatment can benefit from total knee replacement.
Knee replacement surgery is the resurfacing of the knee joints by the placement of artificial parts that replace the worn out cartilage. These implants result in restored function, improved range of motion, and pain relief. It will be determined if you need a partial or total knee replacement based on how much damage is within your knee joint.
The overall goals of a knee replacement surgery are to decrease your pain and restore your quality of life. Following your surgery, your surgeon may recommend a graduated program of physical therapy. First, your doctor will give you exercises to perform at home as you recover. Then, you’ll be given a more formal physical therapy program when appropriate in order to best optimize your return to your desired lifestyle. Each patient is unique and may have different physical therapy recommendations based on their specific treatment plan.
Recovery from a knee joint replacement occurs in stages typically returning to work activities within 4-6 weeks, driving within 4 weeks and sports related activities within 6-8 weeks. In the long term patients full recovery may take anywhere from six months to a year depending on individual healing and health conditions.
As a leader in joint replacement and specialty orthopaedics, the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute is committed to helping patients identify the symptoms of knee arthritis and treat the condition accordingly. Our commitment to patients is to find the best solution to have them back to the lifestyle and activities they’re used to. If you’re considering a knee joint replacement, visit our knee specialty page to learn more.