Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that results in progressive degradation of joint cartilage and changes in the surrounding tissue. Cartilage serves as a protective cushion between the joint surfaces, allowing smooth joint movement. When cartilage tissue is lost – especially with age – pain and stiffness occur in the affected joints.
A common form of osteoarthritis is knee osteoarthritis, which affects the knee joints. The resulting limited mobility and flexibility of the knee leads to frustration for many sufferers. Preventive measures as well as exercises in case of already existing osteoarthritis can provide relief.
Causes of osteoarthritis
In knee osteoarthritis, the protective cartilage that covers the joint surfaces is increasingly degraded. This type of joint disease can either be genetic or develop with age.
People who suffer from obesity are particularly affected, as excess body weight places additional stress on the knee joints and contributes to more rapid wear and tear of the cartilage. The same applies to overloads, for example due to the performance of certain sports or occupational activities that place stress on the knee joints. On the other hand, a lack of exercise causes muscles to weaken, so joint health can decline. But injuries or surgeries in the knee area can also promote the risk of osteoarthritis and lead to wear and tear of the cartilage.
Symptoms of knee osteoarthritis
Anyone suffering from knee osteoarthritis will recognize the disease at the latest when pain develops in the area of the knee. The joints also feel stiff, especially in the morning after getting up. Thus, simple movements such as walking or climbing stairs may be limited and cause pain. Outwardly, knee osteoarthritis can sometimes be recognized by a crunching, cracking or swelling of the knee.
Treatment of osteoarthritis of the knees
Osteoarthritis is not yet curable, but it can be treated so that its progression is slower and less painful.
Physiotherapy with targeted exercises strengthens the supporting muscles of the knee joint and improves mobility. If obesity is present, weight loss can reduce the stress on the knee joints and slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Depending on the recommendation, aids such as orthopedic shoe inserts, bandages, and knee braces can increase stability.
In advanced cases, knee replacement surgery may be considered, which is not recommended should symptoms be reduced with physical therapy. Pain medications and anti-inflammatory medications and injections may also provide temporary pain relief.
Before osteoarthritis occurs, muscles should always be strengthened as a preventive measure. Those who exercise regularly promote joint health and keep the body flexible. Exercise sessions should be performed carefully to avoid injuries that can promote osteoarthritis. A balanced diet can also support cartilage health.
Osteoarthritis is a disease that should be treated early to prevent rapid progression. With physiotherapy or other measures, the condition can be counteracted and pain can be reduced.