Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease which can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling within that joint.
It is estimated some 250 million people suffer from knee osteoarthritis globally, and is equally common in both women and men, becoming more common as we age. It can occur in any joint in the body, but one of the most common areas is the knee. Osteoarthritis of the knee occurs when the cartilage within the knee joint begins to wear away.
Cartilage is a smooth, shiny substance on the ends of the bones that acts as a shock absorber in the joint, as well as allowing the knee to move smoothly.
The knee is one of the main weight-bearing joints in the body, so there is a considerable amount of force going through the knee joint when we are standing or walking. The cartilage is one of the key structures that absorbs these forces and protects the bone.
When the cartilage breaks down, that protection is no longer there.
The result is stiffness, and often, pain.
The pain and stiffness can then cause the person to use the knee less, which in turn weakens the muscles around the knee, leaving the cartilage vulnerable to further wear.
In severe cases the cartilage can completely erode away so eventually there becomes bone on bone contact, which is extremely painful.
Osteoarthritis normally progresses slowly over a period of months to years.
At first pain may only be felt after a lot of activity, but as the disease progresses pain may come on during normal day to day activity such as walking.
At present there is no actual cure for osteoarthritis, but it can be managed in a number of ways.
A physiotherapist will be able to diagnose the osteoarthritis and identify the reason it has developed in the knee.
Initial treatment will often focus around settling down the inflammation and swelling, and reducing the pain.
An exercise program catered to the individual’s specific needs will also be an important part of the treatment program, enabling the person to improve knee range of motion, increase knee strength, and improve overall function of the knee.
Wear and tear in our knees is something many of us will experience in our lives, but there are things we can do to manage it and continue to live an active life.
For more information on osteoarthritis of the knee, join us for a free lecture at our downtown St. Paul Street location on Thursday, Sept.19, 6 p.m.
For more information call 250-861-8056.