How Will It Affect Me
If you have osteoarthritis of the knee, you will probably feel your knee is painful and stiff at times. It may only affect one knee, especially if youve injured it in the past, or you could have it in both. The pain may feel worse at the end of the day, or when you move your knee, and it may improve when you rest. You might have some stiffness in the morning, but this wont usually last more than half an hour.
The pain can be felt all around your knee, or just in a certain place such as the front and sides. It might feel worse after moving your knee in a particular way, such as going up or down stairs.
Sometimes, people have pain that wakes them up in the night. Youll probably find that the pain varies and that you have good and bad days.
You might find you cant move your knee as easily or as far as normal, or it might creak or crunch as you move it.
Sometimes your knee might look swollen. This can be caused by two things:
- Hard swelling: when the bone at the edge of the joint grows outwards, forming bony spurs, called osteophytes .
- Soft swelling: when your joint becomes inflamed and produces extra fluid, sometimes called an effusion or water on the knee.
Sometimes osteoarthritis of the knee can cause the muscles in the thighs to weaken, so your leg may look thinner. This weakness can make the joint feel unstable and could cause the knee to give way when you put weight on it.
Injuries That May Lead To Knee Swelling
- Meniscal tears
Needless to say, the gravity of some of these conditions is worse than others. For instance, malignant tumors are far worse than mild sprains, osteoarthritis is a localized issue whereas rheumatoid arthritis involves your entire immune system, and so on and so forth.
Now that weve got the basics covered, lets move on to why youre really here.
Dealing With Knee Arthritis At Home
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First Of All You Need To Understand The Basic Anatomy Of Your Knee
Its a synovial joint which means it allows a lot of movement. This degree of movement is made possible largely because of fluid within and around the bones and other soft tissue that make up your knee.
The synovial fluid in the knee basically reduces friction between the joints moving parts, similar to how gear oil helps your car to run smoother. Its also what most people consider water on the knee.
So, if youve ever wondered, is it bad if you have fluid in your knee?
No, its not. Having fluid in the knee joint is actually normal. But, also like gear oil, the problem begins when you have too little or too much.
Glucosamine And/or Chondroitin Sulfate 1
Glucosamine is a compound found naturally in the body, made from glucose and the amino acid glutamine. Glucosamine is needed to produce glycosaminoglycan, a molecule used in the formation and repair of cartilage and other body tissues.Since the production of glucosamine slows with age, some people use glucosamine supplements to fight aging-related health conditions, like osteoarthritis. Taking glucosamine as a nutritional supplement is thought to keep osteoarthritis in check by restoring the bodys glucosamine supply and repairing damaged cartilage.Treatment with glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulphate may provide symptomatic benefit, however if no response is apparent within 6 months, experts recommend to discontinue treatment.
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Explore Supplements And Natural Remedies
Supplements for knee osteoarthritis may increase production of synovial fluid in the knee joint. This helps smooth out rough movement that could be causing knee pain. Talk to your doctor before adding these into your regimen.
Are There Different Types Of Knee Osteoarthritis
The knee has three contact zones, also known as compartments where osteoarthritis usually occurs. A common way to classify knee osteoarthritis is by which of the three compartments of are affected:
- Medial Tibiofemoral Compartment the inside part of the knee where the tibia meets the femur .
- Lateral Tibiofemoral Compartment The outside part of the knee where the tibia meets the femur .
- Patellofemoral compartment The front of the knee between the patella and femur .
Estimates of how common osteoarthritis is in each compartment of the knee vary quite widely. A study published by Oxford University found that of a group of subjects with radiographic knee osteoarthritis :
- 59% had osteoarthritis in both the patellofemoral compartment and at least one tibiofemoral compartment.
- 35% had osteoarthritis only in the patellofemoral compartment
- Only 6% had osteoarthritis in one or both of the tibiofemoral compartments.
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Complementary And Alternative Therapies
Some people with osteoarthritis try complementary or alternative therapies such as acupuncture and aromatherapy and find them helpful.
However, there’s a lack of medical evidence to suggest they’re effective and they generally are not recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence .
Exercise And Other Knee Arthritis Remedies
For both OA and inflammatory knee arthritis patients, exercise is a key component of treatment, particularly if youre overweight or obese
Physical therapy may be a necessary first step for some to strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee joint and improve range of motion. Low-impact exercises walking, cycling, or swimming are usually best for those with arthritis of the knee, but you may be able to do higher-impact exercises if dont have much joint damage.
To help make activity more comfortable, your doctor may recommend using assistive devices such as a cane or a knee brace or sleeve. Wearing well-cushioned, shock-absorbing shoes or inserts is also key unsupportive styles such as flip-flops and flimsy flats only exacerbate knee joint pain. High heels, which throw off your alignment and place added stress on your knees, should also be avoided.
Its also a good idea to talk to your doctor about how to get more rest, since many people with arthritis experience sleep disturbances that studies suggest can lead to pain, depression, and greater disability. Simply practicing good sleep hygiene sticking to a regular bedtime, keeping your bedroom quiet and dark, exercising during the day, etc. can help in many cases.
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Tendinitis Of The Knee
Tendinitis of the knee occurs in the front of the knee below the kneecap at the patellar tendon or in the back of the knee at the popliteal tendon . Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon, which is often produced by events, such as jumping, that strain the tendon. Patellar tendinitis, therefore, also has the name “jumper’s knee.” Tendinitis is diagnosed based on the presence of pain and tenderness localized to the tendon. It is treated with a combination of ice packs, immobilization with a knee brace as needed, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications. Gradually, exercise programs can rehabilitate the tissues in and around the involved tendon. Cortisone injections, which can be given for tendinitis elsewhere, are generally avoided in patellar tendinitis because there are reports of risk of tendon rupture as a result. In severe cases, surgery may be required. A rupture of the tendon below or above the kneecap can occur. When it does, there may be bleeding within the knee joint and extreme pain with any knee movement. Surgical repair of the ruptured tendon is often necessary.
Complementary And Alternative Medicine
There is a wide variety of traditional, nutritional, herbal, naturopathic, and homeopathic medicines used to treat osteoarthritis. Many of these have little evidence to support their use.
With that being said, there a number of complementary treatments that the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health believes may offer benefits. Among them:
- Acupuncture has been shown to provide modest arthritis pain relief, particularly of the knee.
- Boswellia serrata, an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine, is believed to have anti-inflammatory effects beneficial to osteoarthritis.
- S-adenosyl-L-methionine is a chemical naturally produced in the body that is sold as a dietary supplement. There is some evidence that SAMe may be as effective as over-the-counter NSAIDs in treating arthritis pain.
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Gradual Increase In Pain
Arthritis pain usually starts slowly, although it can appear suddenly in some cases.
At first, you may notice pain in the morning or after youve been inactive for a while.
Your knees may hurt when you:
- climb stairs
- stand up from a sitting position
- walk on a flat surface
- sit down for a while
Knee pain that wakes you up from sleep can be a symptom of OA.
For people with RA, the symptoms often start in the smaller joints. They are also more likely to be symmetrical, affecting both sides of the body. The joint may be warm and red.
With OA, symptoms may progress rapidly or they may develop over several years, depending on the individual. Symptoms can worsen and then remain stable for a long time, and they can vary day to day.
Factors that may cause worsening of symptoms include:
- cold weather
- excessive activity
With RA, symptoms usually appear over several weeks, but they can develop or worsen in a few days. A flare can happen when disease activity increases. Triggers vary and can include changes in medication.
Hyaluronic Acid Injections 1
A normal knee joint is surrounded by a membrane, the synovium, which produces a small amount of thick fluid, known as synovial fluid. Synovial fluid helps to nourish the cartilage and keep it slippery. The synovium also has a tough outer layer which protects and supports the joint. In osteoarthritis, as cartilage wears away, synovial fluid changes and loses its ability to lubricate the joint.The treatment, which involves injecting hyaluronic acid into the knee works to improve the lubrication of the knee, reduce pain, and improve range of motion.Typically, hyaluronic acid injections are recommended for patients who have not found adequate pain relief from more conservative treatment options.
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Articles On Knee Osteoarthritis
While age is a major risk factor for osteoarthritis of the knee, young people can get it, too. For some individuals, it may be hereditary. For others, osteoarthritis of the knee can result from injury or infection or even from being overweight. Here are answers to your questions about knee osteoarthritis, including how it’s treated and what you can do at home to ease the pain.
Introduction To Knee Arthritis
Have your knee arthritis symptoms become so severe that your current medication and management regimen is no longer working for you? Do you want more information to help you better manage your knee health and mobility? We have found that for many people in this situation, good information is hard to come by. It is either too basic for someone who has been living with arthritis for a number of years, or focused on medical professionals and too complicated and full of jargon. This guide will provide simple, reliable information to help you better understand what happens in your knee as your joint degenerates during the later stages of arthritis as it progresses towards tricompartmental osteoarthritis. For advice on how to deal with these symptoms it is best to seek professional medical opinion. If you plan on seeing a doctor to assess your knee health and changing needs, but want to become more informed this would be a good place to start! This guide is based on common questions about severe knee arthritis. We answer them where possible, and guide you to the best people to answer specific questions you have about your condition.
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Change In Synovial Fluid
Synovial fluid is the natural lubricant that fills the joint. It allows for smooth movements, keeps the joints separated, and acts as a filter for the joint allowing the passage of nutrients while keeping out harmful substances. In cases of severe knee osteoarthritis, the synovial fluid becomes more watery and less effective as a lubricant for the joint. This causes more friction and overall wear and tear and is one of the main contributors to the cartilage loss discussed above.
What Are Treatments For Knee Arthritis
Though neither category of arthritis is curable, both kinds of knee arthritis can be managed well, particularly when caught early. Thats especially true for those with inflammatory arthritis.
We know a lot more about inflammatory arthritis than we do about OA, Dr. Domingues says. And we have drugs that target the root cause of inflammatory arthritis disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or DMARDs which decrease inflammation, help preserve the joint, and ease pain. Biologics, a more targeted type of DMARD, may be recommended for those who dont get sufficient relief of knee pain and other symptoms from traditional DMARDs.
As for what to take for knee osteoarthritis, doctors often first recommend over-the-counter analgesics such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , which are also sometimes used to alleviate the pain of inflammatory arthritis.
If those dont help your knee OA, steroid injections may be a good next step for managing knee joint pain, or your doctor might suggest hyaluronan injections, which provide some of the cushioning lost by cartilage breakdown in your knee joint.
But because OA is a degenerative disease, which means it will likely get worse over time, these options mostly buy you time before you may ultimately need a knee replacement, which is the definitive treatment for moderate-to-severe knee OA, Dr. Domingues says.
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Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation 1
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is the use of electric currents produced by a medical device to stimulate nerves for therapeutic purposes.Electrodes are placed on the skin in the affected region then slow electrical pulses cause muscles to contract and relax, essentially mimicking passive exercise.While TENS ranks quite low on the recommendations list, some people with advanced knee arthritis have had success when combining TENS into their treatment plan for temporary pain relief.
Switch From The Sidewalk To The Treadmill
Walking or jogging on a sidewalk made of concrete can be hard on the knees. A treadmill has a little more spring and decreases the overall compressive load on the knees. When walking on a treadmill, resist the urge to walk at an incline.
Walking on a groomed earthen trail will have a similar positive effect.
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Dont: Be Afraid To Use Assistive Devices If You Have Knee Osteoarthritis
Canes and knee braces can play a role in decreasing knee osteoarthritis pain and improving function, Pisetsky says. There can be a period of time when knee pain is disabling but its not the right time for surgery, so thats when assistive devices can make a difference, he explains. An occupational therapist can work with you to choose appropriate assistive devices.
Treatment Innovations & Future Directions
Approximately 15% of the worlds population has OA.19 With a staggering 630 million suffering from OA it is increasingly becoming a burden on healthcare systems. Consequently, many scientists and engineers have been hard at work developing cost-effective alternatives to knee replacement surgeries. Recently two promising innovative approaches have been gaining popularity for the treatment of severe knee OA
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What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Arthritis Of The Knee
It might be helpful to arrive at your healthcare providers office with a list of questions you want or need to be answered. Consider:
- Do I have arthritis in one knee or both?
- What type of arthritis do I have?
- Whats a possible cause of my arthritis?
- What treatments do you recommend?
- What medications should I take?
- Do I need physical therapy?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Knee arthritis can affect people of all ages. Its painful, impairs movement and causes swelling of the joint. Some people are so disabled by it that they cant work anymore. Others can only work after surgery. Meanwhile, for others, the pain isnt necessarily as bad, but it still prevents them from regular activities like cleaning, gardening and running after their kids.
Arthritis of the knee can decrease your quality of life. The good news is that treatments can lessen the severity of your symptoms. The pain and swelling might not be as bad. See your healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment if you have symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/18/2021.