What is knee osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is a common condition that occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of the bones wears down over time. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and difficulty with mobility. While there is no cure for OA, there are a variety of treatments that can help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
How do I know if I knee osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is a degenerative joint disease that can cause pain, stiffness, and difficulty with mobility. If you suspect that you may have OA of the knee, it is important to consult with a Physiotherapist of a Doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
A healthcare professional will typically perform a physical examination, take a medical history, and may order imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI to diagnose OA of the knee.
During the physical examination, your Physiotherapist will check for:
- Pain and tenderness in the knee joint and along the joint line
- Stiffness, particularly in the morning or after sitting for a long period of time
- Swelling and warmth in the joint
- Limited range of motion
Symptoms of OA of the knee may be similar to other conditions such as a meniscal tear or ligament sprain. Imaging, such as X-rays, can reveal the loss of cartilage which are characteristic of OA.
If OA of the knee is diagnosed, the healthcare professional will discuss treatment options with you. These may include medications, Physiotherapy, weight management, assistive devices, and in severe cases, surgery.
It is important to note that OA is a progressive condition that may worsen over time, so it is important to address the symptoms early on and to take steps to prevent it from getting worse. With proper treatment, most people with OA of the knee can manage their symptoms and maintain a good quality of life.
How can Physiotherapy help knee osteoarthritis?
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment option for managing the symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Your Physiotherapist can design an exercise program that can help improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles around the knee, which can help reduce pain and improve function.
Some specific ways that Physiotherapy can help with knee OA include:
- Pain management: A Physiotherapist can teach exercises and techniques that can help reduce pain and inflammation in the knee joint. This can include exercises to improve flexibility and range of motion, as well as techniques such as heat or cold therapy or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Strengthening exercises: Your Physiotherapist can design an exercise program to help improve the strength of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, which support the knee joint. This can help reduce the load on the knee and improve function.
- Gait and balance training: Your Physiotherapist can work with you to improve your gait and balance, which can help reduce the risk of falls and improve your ability to perform daily activities.
- Education and advice: Your Physiotherapist can teach you how to perform exercises correctly, provide information on appropriate activities and equipment, as well as give advice on how to manage your symptoms and prevent further deterioration of the knee joint.
- Coordinating with other healthcare professionals: Your Physiotherapist can work closely with other healthcare professionals such as rheumatologists, orthopedic surgeons, and primary care physicians to provide a comprehensive treatment plan.
It is important to note that a Physiotherapy program should be tailored to the individual and their specific needs, as well as the severity of their condition. Regular Physiotherapy sessions, combined with appropriate medications, lifestyle changes, and self-management strategies can help alleviate pain and improve function in individuals with OA of the knee.
Will I need surgery for my knee osteoarthritis?
In most cases, knee OA is managed conservatively through Physiotherapy for at least 3-6 months. However, in the event where conservative management does not help to improve the symptoms or if the pain is unremitting and severe, a surgical intervention might be warranted.
Surgery is typically not the first line of treatment for osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. In most cases, OA of the knee can be managed with a combination of medication, Physiotherapy, weight management, and lifestyle changes. Surgery is usually only considered when more conservative treatments have failed to provide sufficient pain relief or when the knee joint is severely damaged.
The types of surgery that may be recommended for OA of the knee include:
- Joint replacement surgery (also known as arthroplasty): This involves removing the damaged joint surfaces and replacing them with artificial ones. This procedure is typically recommended for individuals with advanced OA and severe knee pain and disability.
- Osteotomy: This procedure involves cutting and reshaping the bone to realign the joint. This can help redistribute the weight-bearing load on the joint and reduce pain.
- Meniscal repair or replacement: This procedure may be recommended if the OA is accompanied by a meniscal tear, which can also cause pain and affect the knee joint movement.
- Debridement or arthroscopy: This procedure may be recommended if the OA is accompanied by other factors such as inflammation or loose bodies in the joint.
It is important to note that surgery carries its own risks and recovery time, and it’s not suitable for everyone. The decision to undergo surgery for OA of the knee should be made only after a thorough evaluation of the individual’s condition and after considering all other treatment options. Your healthcare professional, such as an orthopedic surgeon, can help you make an informed decision about the best course of treatment for your specific condition.