Knee osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that you’ll often hear mentioned. You may, however, not be completely sure what it is, what the effects are, and what can be done about it. This simple guide should help…

What is knee osteoarthritis?

knee osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage which provides natural cushioning in your joints simply wears away – a bit like a car without its shock-absorbers. The bones then rub together causing swelling, stiffness, immobility and the resulting pain.

Who suffers from it?

It’s a fallacy that only older people have this condition, although the likelihood of developing it does increase from your mid-forties onwards. Sadly, it can also occasionally affect the young, as it can also be hereditary. Research suggests that women tend to be more susceptible to the condition than men.

What causes it?

Cartilage does heal less well as you get older, and heaviness is also a factor (each pound you gain causes three to four times that effect on your knees). Repetitive stress injuries, caused by work activities such as heavy lifting or regular squatting, are also a frequent cause. Moderate exercise on a regular basis can help strengthen knee joints, but long-time strenuous sports activities such as football or tennis can put you at increased risk. Medical causes can include rheumatoid arthritis, and an excess of growth hormone or iron can also increase your risk level.

How is it treated?

The first outcomes aimed for are to decrease the pain and increase mobility. Therefore, sufferers will be encouraged to lose weight if necessary, and to take sensible exercise to stretch and strengthen the knee joint. Physical or occupational therapists can help show sufferers how to increase their flexibility and perform regular tasks in ways that means they can suffer less pain. Braces can also be an option for added support. Apart from familiar pain-relieving medicines, creams or supplements, your doctor might also treat you with more-powerful corticosteroids. If all of the above aren’t sufficiently effective, surgery might then be considered.

Finally how do you know if you’ve got it?

Self-diagnosis is rarely a good idea. However, it may be wise to talk to your doctor if you suffer from pain that increases during activity and improves slightly after you finish. Also, if you feel warmth or swelling in your knee joint, or stiffness after inactivity (say sleeping, or sitting for a while). You might even hear those horrible cracking, creaking sounds when you first move!