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Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Oteoarthritis (OA) is a condition involving the breakdown of articular cartilage in knee joint. Articular cartilage is the smooth, white tissue that covers the ends of bones where they come together to form joints. As the disease develops, the articular cartilage becomes much thinner, or it can wear away completely. This can lead to thickening of the edges of the bones, and the bones may develop bony “spurs”.

The combination of these factors causes stiffness, pain and swelling. 

OA can occur in any of the joints, however it is most commonly found in the knee.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

  • A previous knee injury – for example a fracture; ligament, or meniscal injury
  • Repetitive strain on the knee – excessive weight-bearing activities over long periods of time can cause gradual wear and tear
  • Being overweight or obese – the extra weight increases the forces going through the knee making your knee joint work harder than it should
  • Joints that are not properly formed
  • A genetic defect in joint cartilage

Knee Joint
Knee Joint

Symptoms

  • Pain. Your joint may hurt during or after movement.
  • Tenderness. Your joint may feel tender when you apply light pressure to it.
  • Stiffness. Joint stiffness may be most noticeable when you wake up in the morning or after a period of inactivity.
  • Loss of flexibility. You may not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion.
  • Grating sensation. You may hear or feel a grating sensation when you use the joint.
  • Bone spurs. These extra bits of bone, which feel like hard lumps, may form around the affected joint.

Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

Treatment
Things that you can do include:

  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications – speak to your doctor  for more information
  • Avoiding activities that make your pain worse
  • Applying ice – this is helpful after activities that aggravate the pain. Wrap the ice in a damp towel and apply for no longer than 15minutes
  • Keep the knee moving – prolonged periods of inactivity will make the knee more stiff and painful
  • Swimming – a warm pool not only offers comfort to the knee; the buoyancy of the water also reduces stress through the knee
  • Losing weight if you are overweight – this will reduce forces through your knees, thereby reducing pain
  • Wearing a knee brace – a brace offers your knee more support

There is no cure for OA of the knee. However, there are ways to manage the pain and help reduce the condition from getting worse.