If you are suffering from knee arthritis, you are not alone. Nearly 1 in 3 adults suffer from arthritis or other chronic joint symptoms. There are over 100 different types of arthritis diseases, and although it is most common among the elderly, it can affect people of all ages.
What are symptoms of Knee Arthritis?
Generally, the pain associated with knee arthritis develops gradually, although sudden onset is also possible. Arthritic joints are swollen or inflamed, usually because the smooth cartilage around them has been damaged in some way. This makes it difficult to bend or straighten the knee. Usually, the pain and swelling is worse in the morning or after a period of inactivity. Pain may also increase after activities such as walking, stair climbing, or kneeling.
Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of knee arthritis. It is usually a slowly progressive degenerative disease, in which the joint cartilage gradually wears away. Osteoarthritis is most common in middle-aged and older patients.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis that can destroy the joint cartilage. It can occur at any age and generally affects both knees.
Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the knee. This type of arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis and may develop years after a fracture, ligament injury, or meniscus tear.
Knee Arthritis Treatments
Unfortunately, most types of arthritis are currently incurable, but today´s wide range of treatment options can be very effective. The effectiveness of different treatments varies from person to person. The choice of treatment should be a joint decision between you and Dr. Ackerman.
Non-Surgical Treatment for Knee Arthritis
In its early stages, arthritis of the knee is treated with nonsurgical measures. Nonsurgical treatments include lifestyle modifications, exercise, supportive devices, and other methods like water exercises and the use of elastic bandages. Lifestyle modifications can include losing weight, switching from running exercises to swimming, and minimizing activities that aggravate the condition. If a patient is overweight, losing weight may also reduce the stress on weight bearing joints and reduce pain.
Specific exercises will help increase range of motion and flexibility, and strengthen the supporting muscles. This is an effective method for reducing pain and improving function. We can help you develop an individualized exercise program that meets your needs and lifestyle.
Using a brace or other supportive devices, like inserts and knee sleeves, can assist with stability and function. An “unloader” brace shifts load away from the affected portion of the knee, while a “support” brace helps support the entire knee load. Both braces have been proven to effectively take pressure off of injured knees.
Knee Aspiration and Corticosteroid Injections
One of the more common symptoms of arthritis is swelling of the knee joint. When the knee becomes swollen, increased fluid in the tissues throughout the joint may cause pain and decreased mobility. In many cases, swelling subsides with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication. However, if the swelling continues or worsens despite these treatments, a simple procedure known as knee aspiration (drainage) can be very effective for relieving knee pain and stiffness.
Dr. Ackerman offers knee drainage as an in-office therapeutic technique to remove excess fluid from the joint space. While lying down on an exam table, you will be given a local anesthetic to numb your knee. A needle and syringe is then inserted into the side of the kneecap and used to draw fluid from within the joint space. After the excess fluid has been removed, Dr. Ackerman may administer a steroid injection to the knee to help prevent future swelling. Most patients who receive knee drainage experience immediate pain-relief and a significant reduction in knee stiffness.
In this procedure, a gel-like fluid called hyaluronic acid is injected into the knee joint. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in the synovial (joint) fluid. It acts as a lubricant to enable bones to move smoothly over each other and as a shock absorber for joint loads.
People with osteoarthritis ("wear-and-tear" arthritis) have a lower-than-normal concentration of hyaluronic acid in their joints. Viscosupplementation may be a therapeutic option for individuals with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Viscosupplementation can be helpful for people whose arthritis has not responded to basic treatments. It is most effective if the arthritis is in its early stages (mild to moderate). Some patients may feel pain at the injection site, and occasionally the injections result in increased swelling. It may take several weeks to notice an improvement after viscosupplementation. Not all patients will have relief of pain.
If the injections are effective they may be repeated after a period of time, usually 6 months.
The long-term effectiveness of viscosupplementation is not yet known and research continues in this area.
If your arthritis is not responding well or if you are trying to delay surgery, you may wish to discuss this option with Dr. Ackerman.
There are several drugs commonly used to treat arthritis of the knee, including but not limited to, aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Simple pain relievers are available without prescription and can be very effective in reducing pain. However, every patient is different and not all patients respond the same to medications, so Dr. Ackerman will develop a program for your specific condition.
If nonsurgical treatments are not enough, you will need to have surgery. As with nonsurgical options, the purpose of surgery is to reduce pain, increase function, and generally reduce your symptoms. Patient satisfaction is a fundamental goal in treating arthritis of the knee. There are a number of options available, including cartilage grafting, arthroscopic surgery, total or partial knee arthroplasty, and osteotomy.
If you are suffering from knee arthritis, you are not alone. To learn more about knee arthritis and different treatment options, schedule a consultation with Dr. Ackerman today by calling (516) 243-8506.
1600 Stewart Ave - Suite 100 - Westbury, NY 11590 Copyright 2014. George P. Ackerman, MD, Long Island Orthopedic Surgeon. All Rights Reserved.
Phone: (516) 243-8506 - Fax: (516) 745-1189
The information available on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace a medical consultation where a physician’s judgment may advise you about specific disorders, conditions and or treatment options. We hope the information will be useful for you to become more educated about your health care, orthopedic surgery and sports medicine decisions. Please call us with any questions.