What is Knee Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease where the structures within this articular cartilage are disrupted which results in the erosion of the articular cartilage itself. Once the cartilage begins to wear away, the bones are affected and osteophytes (spurs) will develop.
How did I get Knee Osteoarthritis?
OA is most commonly developed with age, affecting most individuals as they age within a wide spectrum. Other factors that can contribute to the development of OA include excessive body weight, genetics, sex and occupation/hobbies.
Weight- Carrying excess weight as an individual can increase the force impact on the knee, causing more wear and tear which may lead to OA.
Genes- OA can be caused by different hereditary factors, one being the composition of the bone and the other being physical irregularities of the bone that could be examined on an X-ray. It should be noted that other illnesses like Rheumatoid Arthritis and certain metabolic diseases can predispose you to develop OA.
Sex- Females over 55 tend to develop OA more often than males.
Occupation/Athletics- Jobs that require frequent kneeling, squatting and lifting of heavyweights are more likely to cause OA. Similarly, athletes should take preventative measures – especially those involved in soccer, tennis and long-distance running as they create even greater forces on the knee.
Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis
Symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Loss of range of motion (difficulty using stairs or getting in and out of chairs, cars, baths, etc.)
- Pain with movement
- Pain after prolonged sitting or laying
- Joint enlargement/swelling
How is Knee Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?
A doctor performs a physical exam and takes into account the symptoms you are experiencing. Tests such as X-ray, MRI, and blood tests may be ordered by the doctor to get additional details about the type of arthritis, the severity of damage and possible infection.
A physiotherapist is often referred, who will provide an in-depth examination that focuses on the function of your knee. They’ll look at your range of motion, gait, strength, balance and observe general movement patterns of daily activities. With your goals in mind, they will create a treatment plan specific to you to help with pain and optimize function until surgical management is required.
Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis
Treatment can be broken down into conservative and surgical approaches. Initially, a conservative approach is used to minimize pain and maximize function. Only a small proportion of those with OA will require a surgical consult.
Conservative treatment is a great way to help manage your pain and improve your function. This approach focuses on physiotherapy involving patient education, exercise therapy, activity modification, advice on weight loss, knee bracing and pharmacological management. Although all programs are individualized to each patient and their specific goals, exercise programs, like the GLA:D Program, for OA tend to include quad strengthening exercises to offload pressure of the knee joint, strengthening of the glute muscles for leg stability, as well as stretches for the hamstring and calf which tend to tighten with Knee OA.
Supplementary interventions include hydrotherapy, taping, massage and electrotherapy (IFC/TENs).
If the disease progression causes conservative management to be exhausted, surgical interventions are explored. These may include therapeutic injections, arthroscopy, osteotomy, arthroplasty, and total knee replacements.