Causes and Symptoms of Knee Arthritis

Our knee joint is where the femur and tibia meets. This unique combination allows a wide range of motion for the knee under undisturbed conditions. However due to certain complications such as injuries, the surface of the knee joint is damaged and mobility is hindered as a result. There are basically 3 kinds of arthritis affecting the knee: Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Post-trauma Arthritis. In this article, we will be looking at the causes and symptoms of knee arthritis.

Causes

We must first understand the differences between the 3 kinds of knee arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of knee arthritis and is a degenerative disease that is often accompanied by ageing. Due to wear and tear, the joint cartilage starts to wear off and this results in pain and inflammation when the knee joint rubs against each other. On the other hand, unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which our body’s immune system attacks the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis can happen to anyone from any age group. Last but not least is post-trauma arthritis which is essentially caused by direct trauma to the knee. This direct trauma causes damage to the cartilage and changes the joint mechanics, accelerating wear and tear.

Symptoms

Pain

Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something located somewhere in your body is wrong. Pain is due to the secretion of chemical signals to your brain which are then recognised as pain. Knee arthritis causes inflammation to the affected joint. This inflammation causes swelling and damages the surrounding soft tissues. In an attempt to reduce stresses on the injured part, the surrounding muscles will try to overload themselves but this will cause muscle soreness after a period of time, contributing to the pain experienced.

Crepitus

Crepitus is characterised by a creaking and grinding sensation when you attempt to move your injured joint.  This is due to cartilage wear down in the spaces between the knee joints. Crepitus can be painful or painless depending on individual conditions.

Knee giving way

Some patients may experience sensations of their knee giving way. This is due to the joint being unstable and the surrounding muscles being fatigued from having to take over the duties of the injured joint. Patients may require walking aids such as a walker or crutches and may use knee braces to stabilise and provide support to the knee joint.

There are various methods of managing arthritis ranging from oral supplements to surgery. However, these do not effectively heal the patient. Scientists are looking at cartilage transplants in the future which could lessen the amount of pain.

Preventing Osteoarthritis through Exercise

Osteoarthritis is a significant degenerative disease that affects the joints. It appears most commonly in the lower extremities which includes the knee and ankles. The reason why the lower extremities are favoured is due to the immense amount of stresses experienced each day. Despite the high prevalence of Osteoarthritis, it can be prevented through simple exercises. We will discuss in this article about how best to prevent Osteoarthritis through daily exercises.

Studies have concluded that exercises can help to prevent Osteoarthritis. Light exercises such as walking are able to effectively reduce the development of osteoarthritis while heavy ones can lead to an increase. As we age, our cartilage becomes less flexible and more brittle. As a result, it cannot work as effectively as before. Exercising frequently helps to prevent muscle atrophy and this is beneficial for those suffering from degenerative joint problems. Exercising frequently helps to build muscle mass, increase strength and flexibility. Patients who complain of pain while exercising should consider aquatic-based exercises which are pain free due to the buoyancy of water.


Flexibility exercises

The aim of flexibility exercises is to increase mobility in the joints and reduce stiffness. Simple flexibility exercises can help to stretch the surrounding muscles and increase blood flow to the region.


Leg stretch

Sit down on the floor and bend your knees while holding the soles together. Hold your ankles firmly and slowly push your knee down using your elbow. You will be able to feel a stretch on the inner part of your leg. Remember to do this slowly or you risk pulling your quad muscles.

Lower back stretch

Lie flat on a piece of yoga mat whilst extending your legs. Get into a position similar to when you are doing crunches but instead of holding your ankles, hold your knee this time round. Pull your knees towards you at a slow but consistent pace while maintaining proper breathing techniques.

Low impact aerobic exercises

Low impact aerobic exercises such as swimming and cycling are gentle on your joints yet improving your cardiovascular function effectively. While people commonly associate osteoarthritis with aging, it does not seem to be the case now. There is an increasing trend in younger patients suffering from osteoarthritis. Instead of participating in high impact sports such as soccer and running, consider making the switch to low impacts ones.
There is no effective cure for osteoarthritis yet and the only way is to manage it with medication and exercises in an attempt to live with the pain and go on with your life.

Age-related Orthopaedic Conditions

Age related orthopaedic conditions frequently decreases the ability to remain mobile, cause discomfort and pain and reduces the ability to lead a quality lifestyle, requiring alterations to daily activities. Ageing is a process which is spontaneous and cannot be avoided. However, age-related problems can be avoided if proper nutrition and care is provided.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder indicated by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissues. Osteoporosis can be grouped into systemic and local. Local osteoporosis is due to fractures, rheumatoid arthritis, tumours, muscular paralysis or tendon ruptures. Our bone is frequently undergoing remodelling, forming new bone cells in the process. However, osteoporosis causes an imbalance between this bone forming, causing low bone mineral density and poor quality of bones which are easily fractured.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is another orthopaedic problem associated with ageing. Degeneration of ligaments and joints can cause arthritis. Patients suffering from arthritis suffer immense pain. They can also have deformed joints and even loss of motion. Osteoarthritis can happen in any synovial joints, but it occurs most often in frequently used parts of the body such as the hands, feet, knee and hips.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur in elderly patients. This is due to the irritation of the median entrapment nerve compressing on the carpal tunnel. Rheumatoid arthritis can trigger carpal tunnel syndrome as well due to the inflammation of the flexor tendons, causing compressive stresses on the carpal tunnel.

Cervical spondylosis

Narrowing of the intervertebral foramina disc can cause irritation at the cervical nerve roots. This is often between the C4/5 vertebrae and can cause stiffness and sensory-motor impairment. Patients can also frequently experience a triad of tenderness over the neck area.

Genu valgum

Genu valgum or knock knee is often due to osteoarthritis in the knee. Osteoarthritis will cause deformation to occur on the knee, causing them to touch each other while straightened, and increasing asymmetrical wear on the cartilages at the medial and lateral joints. Genu valgum will lead to an increase in pain during activities and stiffness.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is a medical condition that affects the feet and it causes extreme pain that is amplified after periods of inactivity. The pain is likened to as being stabbed repeatedly in the feet. The onset of pain is largely due to long periods of immobility of the feet such as a long day of using the computer. As the activities around the leg increases, the pain will decrease.

Degenerative orthopaedic conditions are common in the elderly. However, most of the conditions can be improved through physiotherapy or by leading an active lifestyle, working out the limbs and joints more often. When things get serious, pain relief medication may need to be consumed to maintain the level of pain in a tolerable range.