One of the more common complaints of knee pain transpires to be osteoarthritis of the knee. The condition involves the gradual breakdown of cartilage within the knee joint causing bone on bone contact and with it pain for the sufferer. The pain experienced can severely inhibit mobility, with pain being felt both during movement and rest.
What are the symptoms?
Early diagnosis is essential in being able to manage the condition, which is incurable, therefore early diagnosis and successful management can delay the need for surgery involving either a full or partial knee replacement.
In the early stages a patient will typically feel pain and discomfort in their knee joint following periods of activity and stiffness of the joint following periods of rest. In more serious cases you can sometimes here a clicking noise during movement of the joint.
The main sign of osteoarthritis of the knee is the pain felt by patients which can be very debilitating, reducing your mobility and even causing problems getting out of a chair to some extent. The more you remain active the more pain that can be experienced, which can be very tiresome and frustrating.
The severity of the condition can range greatly, often beginning with unicompartmental osteoarthritis (affecting one side of the knee) with more serious cases seeing the breakdown of cartilage on both sides of the knee which often only leads surgery as a treatment option.
Both surgical and non-surgical treatment options exist in the management of the condition and whilst surgery can be seen by many as a last resort is sometimes favoured by patients looking to have the condition addressed and start afresh.
From a non-surgical perspective patients can look at medication, physiotherapy and the use of a brace or support.
Surgery can involve either a partial or full knee replacement, depending on the extent of the condition. Whilst surgery will remove the condition it is not the easiest or most straight forward of options to choose from.
Following surgery patients can expect up to a year before being able to walk unaided on top of extensive physiotherapy as you adjust post surgery. A knee replacement will typically last for 15 years before further surgery may be required.
More information on knee replacement surgery can be found on the NHS website.
Medication can be taken to manage the pain and the inflammation caused, something which can add to the pain levels of sufferers of osteoarthritis of the knee. Whilst this may allow the patient to be more active it fails to address the root cause of the issue, with the medication merely masking the cartilage breakdown.
Physiotherapy and exercise can help you stay active, with exercise releasing endorphins into the body which act as natural painkillers, thereby allowing you to stay active for longer. Being fit and healthy can also help during your recovery from surgery and sometimes a prerequisite before surgery will be considered.
A knee brace can help to keep you active whilst delaying surgery and reducing pain. There are braces on the market such as the Unloader One which are specifically designed to manage the symptoms, by taking the pressure off (unloading) the affected side of the knee to reduce bone on bone contact and with it pain. It is important to note that if both sides of the knee are affected by osteoarthritis then a brace may not be a viable option as there is nowhere to offload the pressure.
A knee brace can also be used in the build-up to surgery to help improve fitness before your knee replacement. By reducing pain a patient can become more active and lead a better quality of life.