I have been advising my patients to exercise, keep active, and walk as long as they can in order to stay mobile and healthy. However, seniors often tell me activities that require prolonged walking is limited by knee pain from arthritis. They often ask, “What is arthritis of the knee? How does it happen? What can I do about it?" I will attempt to answer these questions. However, keep in mind that having knee joint arthritis is not a death sentence to an acitve lifesyle. Dr. Hugo Mori and Dr. Joseph Andriolie have severe osteoarthritis in their knees. Yet, both continue to be very active and enjoy retirement skiing, golfing and playing tennis.
Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative arthritis. It is the most common form of arthritis in the knee. It is usually a gradual, slow and progressive process of “wear and tear” to the cartilage in the knee joint which eventually wears down to the bony joint surface. It is most often found in middle-aged and older people and in weight bearing joints such as the hip, knee and ankle.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis in which many joints of the body can be affected. It is very destructive to the cartilage, joint and tissues surrounding the joint. It can occur at any age and usually effects both knees.
Post-Traumatic Arthritis is a form of arthritis that can occur following a trauma or injury to the knee. It is a form of osteoarthritis that is triggered years after a fracture, ligament or cartilage injury.
Your family physician will examine your knee to determine if you have arthritis. In more advanced cases you may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon or rheumatologist for further examination and treatment. X-rays will show if the joint space between the bones in the knee is getting narrow from wear and tear arthritis. If rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, blood tests and an MRI may be ordered. The diagnosis will determine if you problem if minor, moderate or severe.
In the early stages your treatment will be a conservative, nonsurgical approach, which may include; anti-inflammatory medication, orthopedic physical therapy, exercise, activity modifications, supplements, bracing, etc. You and your family physician, orthopedic surgeon or rheumatologist will decide which choices are best.
When conservative measures no longer succeed in controlling pain and deformity, improving strength and function then more aggressive treatment may be necessary.
SOURCES: Rothman Institute, Philadelphia, PA and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” Viscosupplementation of the Knee
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Scranton, PT Dept.