If you’re like a lot of people over age 50, knees that have served you well for years gradually start hurting and swelling. They may start making cracking or popping sounds, and you may even feel a grinding sensation in your knees as you move.
The term “arthritis” simply means inflammation of a joint and is used to describe 200 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, the tissues that surround the joint, and other connective tissue. Healthy cartilage is shiny white and smooth, and its function is to allow joints to glide and move smoothly. Arthritis is the damage or loss of this cartilage between bones in a joint. When it is damaged, it results in pain and swelling.
The joint that most frequently develops arthritis is the knee, and osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the knee. This is a degenerative, “wear-and-tear” type of arthritis that occurs most often in people 50 and older, but may occur in younger people, too. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the knee joint gradually wears away. Knee pain that wakes you up from sleep can be a symptom of osteoarthritis.
Another type of arthritis that can develop in the knee, usually following an injury to the knee joint, is called post-traumatic arthritis. This can result from a torn meniscus, an injury to a ligament, or a fracture of the knee, sometimes years later.
Knee arthritis pain is usually worse in the morning and after a lot of walking or running. Going up and down stairs is especially painful, as well as squatting. Some of our patients with arthritis say that damp weather or other changes in weather can bring on pain.
There are many effective options for relieving the pain of arthritis of the knee and improving joint function before resorting to surgery. Here are the 4 most effective ones:
If none of these non-surgical treatments work, your pain is still significant and you cannot function the way you’d like, it may be time to consider knee replacement surgery, one of the most successful surgeries today. The procedure involves removing the damaged cartilage and underlying bone and replacing it with smooth metal and plastic. Pain relief is almost immediate and dramatic.
Arthritis of the knee is very common but before you begin treatment for it, it’s wise to make sure you have the correct diagnosis. The only way to be certain is to have a thorough physical exam by a specialist.