Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. It affects millions of people worldwide. Osteoarthritis occurs most commonly in the joints of the hand, neck, lower back, knees, and hips. Several factors can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis such as age, weight, heredity, gender, traumatic injuries and other illnesses.
At first osteoarthritis may present itself as sore and stiff joints. Symptoms which may follow are an increase in pain, difficulty walking, climbing stairs, grooming and dressing. As the condition progresses, daily living activities can be affected. When osteoarthritis affects the knee joint, cartilage starts to gradually wear away, it can be painful to walk, bend and straighten your knee. Pain will be the major factor in prompting a visit to your physician.
Who do you see? If you have spoken or already seen your primary physician, they may have examined you and referred you to an orthopaedic specialist. The orthopaedic specialist will examine you, focusing on your range of motion limitations, walk and look for any swelling or tenderness in your joints. You will most likely have x-rays, lab work, and/or special imaging studies such as an MRI to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any other medical conditions.
There are a wide range of treatments to consider before you think about any surgical procedures. Most importantly, the goal between you and your physician should be to minimize your pain, increase functionality and give you your mobility back so you can enjoy your activities as pain free as possible.
Non-surgical treatments include some lifestyle changes. You may need to lose weight and exercise more to strengthen muscles to minimize joint aggravation. The weight loss, if you need it, will reduce the stress on your joints. The use of supportive devices such as a canes or knee braces for support and stability may be necessary.
Treatment with pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications are part of the conservative path to relieve pain symptoms for patients before any decisions for surgical intervention are considered. All medications have side-effects and because every patient reacts differently, your physician will decide the best course of medication. These range from over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications to joint injections, which again your physician will prescribe based on your medical history.
One of the measures aside from pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications will probably include physical therapy or occupational therapy. These will be beneficial if you are having difficulty with daily living activities. Therapy will help strengthen muscles and increase range of motion in the joints. Occupational therapy will assist you in teaching you to do daily tasks with less pain.
When all conservative options have been failed in decreasing your pain and improving your mobility, your surgical options will be discussed. These may include arthroscopic surgery to clean the joint of debris and torn cartilage from osteoarthritis damage.
A total or partial knee replacement to replace all or one compartment of the severely damaged cartilage in the knee joint with metal, polyethylene or ceramic may be necessary if the joint is worn beyond repair. As with all surgeries, there are risks involved and it is recommended you discuss these with your orthopaedic physician. If you are having knee pain contact us or request an appointment here!