Chronic knee pain makes it a challenge for a patient to lead a normal life. The issue causes considerable discomfort in walking, sitting, relaxing and even sleeping. Knee osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder in which the cushioning between the knee joints wears out, causing inflammation and pain. Although temporary knee pain caused by an injury subsides in a few days, chronic pain due to knee osteoarthritis persists until treated. Therefore, it’s important for the doctor to be able to differentiate regular knee pain from knee arthritis. The physicians participating in the referral program at the Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center offer both surgical and non-surgical treatment options for orthopedic conditions including chronic knee pain. The following is a summary of the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatments available for knee osteoarthritis.
Causes and Risk Factors
The causes of knee osteoarthritis aren’t attributable to one incident and may involve a number of factors. A few of them are:
The ability of the cartilage to provide cushioning to the joints and absorb shock decreases with advancing age, thereby increasing the risk of knee osteoarthritis.
Excess body weight tends to impose pressure on all joints, especially knee joints enhancing the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis.
Genetic disorders can run in the family, or structural deformities in the knee structure since birth, can also lead to knee osteoarthritis.
Sports injuries specifically impacting the knee joints or a previous blow to the knee can also increase the risk of knee osteoarthritis.
Women over the age of 55 years are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men from the same age group.
People involved in certain occupations involving kneeling, squatting and weightlifting are more prone to developing knee osteoarthritis.
People suffering from underlying disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, iron overload or excess growth hormone are also likely to develop knee osteoarthritis.
Knee osteoarthritis symptoms progress slowly and worsen over time. The list includes:
- Knee pain after a period of movement or strenuous activity involving lower limbs
- Tenderness on applying slight pressure
- Stiffness in the knee joint at certain times, such as morning or a period of inactivity
- Grating sensation while moving the knee
- Swelling and inflammation
- A warm feeling in the knee joint
- A creaking sound during knee movement
A doctor begins the diagnosis by asking certain questions about the duration of the knee pain, the level of discomfort, and the history of any injury. This is followed by an examination for physical signs such as stiffness, redness, tenderness and the degree of comfortable motion in bending or twisting the knee. An orthopedist may also suggest the following.
Although cartilage isn’t visible in X-rays, this imaging test can be used to check the narrowing spaces between bones and knee joints, which may imply cartilage loss. Additionally, X-rays can also reveal bone spurs in the joints.
MRI test provides a comprehensive picture of the bones, knee joints and soft tissues including cartilage. Although MRI is not related to direct diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis, it is helpful in analyzing complex cases.
Blood tests primarily help in ruling out other causes of knee pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis or other disorders of the immune system.
Joint Fluid Examination
Tissue fluid extraction and examination from the knee joint helps in finding out the cause of knee pain, whether it is due to inflammation or an infection.
The primary goal of knee osteoarthritis treatment is reducing inflammation and relieving knee pain, which is accomplished by over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen. If a person is facing challenges in carrying out day to day activities, an orthopedic specialist may also suggest physical therapy to strengthen muscles and support joint movement. If preliminary treatments fail to show significant improvements within a certain span, a partial or total replacement surgery is the last resort.
The Bottom Line
Although leg exercises and maintaining a healthy BMI (body mass index) can lower the risks of knee osteoarthritis, there is no way eliminate the chances at a later stage of life. Persistent knee pain can be an indicator of knee osteoarthritis and shouldn’t be neglected. If you are looking for a reliable center to consult about knee pain, the physicians participating in the referral program of Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center have extensive experience in knee pain diagnosis, can help relieve chronic knee pain and suggest measures for effective knee pain management. To book an appointment, call at 1-888-608-4762.
Disclaimer: Physicians who are members of the referral program practice independently and are not employees or agents of Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center.