Arthritis is a condition that impacts many people. However, just because you're getting older does not guarantee you will get debilitating arthritis.
There are two types of osteoarthritis (OA), primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is articular degeneration without any underlying cause. Secondary osteoarthritis an abnormal concentration of force across the joint usually following traumatic causes or abnormal articular cartilage, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
What is Cartilage?
Cartilage is the natural cushioning between joints. Its lubricated and smooth surface allows for fluid motion of the joint and to properly distribute force. This is the structure that often leads to pain with arthritis due to "wear and tear".
Causes of Knee Osteoarthritis:
Age- Normal aging occurs and the ability of the cartilage to fully heal decreases
Weight- For every 5-10 pounds a person is overweight, the increase in force through a joint is equivalent to 30 pounds greater. This is why it's important maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
Heredity- There is some hereditary link to developing OA and/or due to the way your bones are shaped. However, there is no guarantee that you will get arthritis even if several members have before you.
Gender- Women over 55 years old tend to have a higher rate of OA than men
Repetitive Stress Injuries- Depending on your job or daily work you have to perform, repetitive stress like kneeling, squatting, or lifting heavy weight in odd positions could put added stress and force through the knee. *Note that during Physical Therapy we will have you do these motions and improve upon them so that you can more easily transfer the load and decrease stress through the joint. We want you lifting, kneeling, and squatting to create healthy, strong joints!*
Athletics- Similar to repetitive stress injuries, the high demands on the body and injuries that occur during sport can lead to a greater risk in developing OA. However, weaker muscles and poor physical health also increases the risk of OA, so we highly recommend routine physical activity.
Other Illnesses- People with metabolic issues or hormonal imbalances can have a higher incidence of joint pain or OA. Your PT can discuss with your team of Physicians to help determine the best course of treatment for your situation.
Symptoms of Knee OA:
Pain that increases when you are active, but gets a little better with rest
Swelling or feeling of warmth in the joint
Stiffness in the knee, that's greater in the morning or when you have been sitting for a while
Decreased mobility of the knee, usually resulting in difficulty getting in and out of chairs, cars, going up/down stairs, or walking
Creaking, crackly sound that is heard when the knee moves *Healthy joints make noise- it is only when it's coupled with pain or decreased movement where it is considered abnormal*
Treatment for Arthritis:
Physical Therapy and regular exercise can help decrease pain and restore function for people living with arthritis. Your PT will perform a full assessment on your knee and determine which exercises will be safe and effective for your based off of your goals.
There is nothing wrong with modifying exercises, especially early on in rehab. This will allow the pain and swelling in the joint to calm down, and then prepare it for greater strengthening and mobility drills to get you back to the activities you love.
In some cases, if conservative treatment does not work, surgery might be necessary. Your team of health care providers will be able to discuss that with you and determine which type of procedure will be most appropriate for you. For knee osteoarthritis, people typically receive arthroscopic surgery, an osteotomy, or joint replacement surgery. Following either procedure, you will resume Physical Therapy to accelerate the recovery and healing process. If you did PT beforehand, don't worry that work won't go to waste. Your prehab still made you stronger before going into surgery and rehab afterwards will be more tolerable.
Even after your no longer need formal Physical Therapy and rehabilitation, it's important to continue with an exercise routine and maintenance program to keep your joints strong and healthy. This will allow you to continue moving around easier and with less pain.
Here at Powerful PT, our sessions are catered to your needs at any point in the recovery or maintenance process. We bridge the gap between formal rehab and health and wellness services to best help you throughout your lifetime.
If you're someone with arthritis, or have dealt with it in the past, if you have any questions or would like guidance from a professional, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form below.