Understanding Knee Pain
We expect a great deal from our knees. They carry most of our body weight, and we count on them to be both flexible and firm so that we can do things like walking, playing sports, bending, etc. Knee pain can make maintain an active lifestyle nearly impossible.
Did you know that the knee joint is the most complex and largest joint in the entire human body? As a result of its anatomical structure—it has three bones (femur, tibia, and patella) and two joints. The bones in the knee joint are covered by articular cartilage, which is a smooth, slippery, nerve-free surface that shields the bones and allows the joint to move smoothly. The knee is a “hinge” joint, permitting the leg to bend in only one direction. The knee provides strength for running, jumping, squatting, and turning. However, it doesn’t have the range of motion of other joints and has almost no capacity to rotate. The knee is particularly susceptible not only to injury but also to wear and tear. Due to this, the treatment of knee-related injuries and disorders requires a specific set of skills and knowledge.
Athletic activities, aging, and injuries are all potential risk factors for knee pain. Obesity is also a risk factor for knee pain because of the extra stress placed on the knee. Knee pain can also arise from ACL tears, tendinitis, meniscus tears, dislocation, and bursitis.
When someone has arthritis, the cartilage will flatten out and lose its elasticity. Degenerative damage to the cartilage will ultimately expose the bone located underneath, which causes inflammation. The ensuing inflammation triggers pain, stiffness, and swelling.
What is the difference between arthritis joint pain and overuse joint pain?
Generally, the pain associated with arthritis develops slowly, even though a sudden onset is also possible. The pain of arthritis may originate from different sources. These may include inflammation of the tissue that lines the joints (synovial membrane), the tendons, ligaments, muscle strain, or fatigue. A mixture of these components contributes to the intensity of the pain.
Arthritis of the Knee
There are over 100 different types of arthritis, and in general, each type of arthritis has particular treatments. Even though finding the right treatment may take time, it will enable you to lead an active lifestyle.
With arthritis of the knees, the joint may become swollen and stiff, making it difficult to bend or straighten the knee. Pain and swelling are typically worse in the morning or after a period of inactivity. The pain may also increase after activities such as kneeling, walking, or stair climbing. The pain may trigger a feeling of weakness in the knee, resulting in a “locking” or “buckling” feeling. Frequently, patients inform us that changes in the weather affect their degree of pain from arthritis.
When arthritis is non-inflammatory, the pain is worse with use and usually worse at the end of the day. Patients can sometimes get relief from symptoms with heat and gentle exercise. The chief symptom of arthritis is decreased function, at times caused by pain, and other times because the joint does not move properly.
The amount of joint deterioration varies greatly from person to person. As knee arthritis progresses, may people will experience worsening pain and diminishing function, but some patients may find this less debilitating than others.
Treatments for arthritis can be split into several categories:
- Exercise and Physical Therapy: The important point to remember about joint health is that the more you move, the less stiff you will feel. Regular exercise is crucial to keep the body moving and flexible. Not only does it help reduce pain and increase mobility, but it also helps you look and feel better. The best exercise choices are activities that don’t beat up your joints, such as bicycling, walking, swimming, and strength training.
- Pace yourself. It’s important to alternate periods of activity with periods of rest to help ensure that your joints don’t get fatigued from the stress of repeated movements.
- Medication: Many medications, including both prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, are used to treat arthritis. Medications like anti-inflammatories, aspirin-free pain relievers, corticosteroids, and sleep medications are used frequently for pain relief. Hyaluronic acid injections are useful for mild to moderate arthritis. These types of injections increase the viscosity of the joint fluid and the elasticity of the joint cartilage, and may also have a mild pain-relieving effect.
- Cold or Heat: Use ice packs or heating pads to provide short-term relief from pain and stiffness.
- Lessen the load on your joint: By reducing excess stress on your joints, you can help protect them. As you lift and carry items, let your larger muscles and joints support the item’s weight. Controlling your weight can help ease pain by reducing stress on your joints.
- Learn Coping Skills: Arthritis can take a physical, emotional, social, and even financial toll on those who are living with it. Talk with your family and friends about how arthritis affects your life. Also, consider joining a local arthritis support group. The group may provide an environment where you can learn new ways of managing arthritis.
If knee pain keeps you up at night, it may be time to see your physician. Knee replacement surgery is an elective choice. If you can live with the pain, you might decide you don’t want to have a knee replacement.
Over 98% of patients who have a knee replacement operation have no significant complications.
There can be consequences for waiting too long to have knee replacement surgery. Leading a sedentary life won’t save your knee, and it won’t slow down the disease’s progress; in reality, it will quicken the loss of muscle and bone strength.
Surgery is much better at reducing pain than nonsurgical options. Full recovery from knee surgery takes approximately three to six months. Factors that can influence your recovery include your overall health, the type of surgery performed, and your rehab success.
Knee replacement surgery is a highly successful, life-improving surgery performed on over 700,000 people in the U.S. each year. More than 90% of people who’ve had a total knee replacement experience a dramatic improvement in their pain and knee function. Most patients experience pain and stiffness for weeks or months after the surgery, but ultimately most patients are glad they had surgery. Nevertheless, surgery is still surgery, and should only be embarked on your timeline and when less invasive treatments no longer bring relief.
Indicators that it might be time for a Total Knee Replacement:
- Medication and using a cane aren’t delivering relief anymore.
- Your knee pain keeps you awake at night.
- You are experiencing pain, swelling, and stiffness in your knee(s).
- You have difficulty walking up the stairs.
- You’re no longer as active as you’d like to be, and you feel pain with most activities.
- You have trouble getting in and out of chairs, cars, and bathtubs.
- You feel a decrease in knee motion or the degree to which you’re able to bend.
- You feel a “grating” of your joint.
Reduced pain and restored mobility after knee replacement surgery.
With less pain and greater mobility, you should be able to complete daily tasks with less effort and lead a more active and independent life.
Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine has expert surgeons who are board-certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and fellowship-trained in adult knee reconstruction.