Overview

Arthritis is the inflammation of joints and can impact the large joints and surrounding tissue of the knee, making it challenging to move without pain. The knee is the most likely part of the body to be affected by arthritis. There are two types of arthritis of the knee – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis of the knee is progressive degeneration of the joint, caused by the wear and tear of the knee. The knee is the most common joint in the body to develop osteoarthritis, due to the large load capacity involved. Generally this begins as small changes to the integrity of the cartilage, causing mild inflammation in the joint. Over time this can lead to the cartilage wearing away unevenly, with bone rubbing on cartilage and eventually sometimes bone rubbing on bone.

Causes

This may be from repetitive microtrauma from any activity involving flexion and extension of the knee, exacerbates by:

  • poor alignment of the joint
  • Being overweight
  • Lots of activity
  • Occupations involving lots of squatting down or lifting
  • Weak quadriceps/poor quadricep balance
  • or a single macro trauma (such as spraining your knee)

Symptoms

  • Dull, diffuse pain that is often difficult to pinpoint to a specific location, although may be sharper and more painful during active cycles of inflammation
  • Often stiff and sore in the mornings
  • Often warms up with activity, but the pain will return once cooled down again

Diagnosis

  • Clinical assessment
  • Alignment and foot position
  • Range of motion and muscle testing
  • X-ray and CT and MRI can be used

Treatment

  • Strengthening of quadriceps
  • Replacing or improving footwear
  • Kinetic orthotics to improve knee alignment
  • If knee too deteriorated surgery becomes an option, either arthroscopy to clean out
  • degeneration, or eventually total knee replacement

Prevention

  • Moderate activity load, build up slowly
  • Strengthen muscles
  • Avoid activity that consistently aggravates
  • Manage bodyweight
  • Footwear and orthotics to decrease deterioration
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