Arthritis is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint. There are several types, but osteoarthritis is the most common. In Osteoarthritis the cartilage between the bones in the joint breaks down, causing the bones to rub together. Almost any joint in the body can be affected, but the most common joints are the knees, hips, spine and hands. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which are normally felt after prolonged use/activity. Some people also experience swelling, tenderness and a grating or crackling sound when moving the affected joints. (If you experience symptoms such as fever, pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints predominantly after waking in the mornings, you should see your doctor as you may have another kind of arthritis).
Osteoarthritis usually affects persons over 40 years but can affect younger persons as well, particularly if they have risk factors. Risk factors include obesity, family history of osteoarthritis, and previous traumatic injury to the joint. Joint deformities such as unequal leg length, bowlegs or knocked knees are also risk factors. There is no cure for osteoarthritis; the goal of treatment is to reduce pain and improve function of the affected joints. Below are some tips for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.
Exercise has been proven to reduce pain and improve function of the knee in persons with knee osteoarthritis. Exercises can include water-based exercises, aerobic activity and strength/resistance training. Physiotherapy may also be helpful in relieving symptoms.
Balneotherapy refers to bathing in natural mineral or thermal waters (e.g. mineral baths, sulphur baths, Dead Sea baths). This has been proven to help reduce pain for persons with osteoarthritis, especially for persons whose disease affects multiple joints (knee, hip, spine and hand). It is also good for persons with other chronic illnesses or comorbidities (including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, renal failure, Gastrointestinal bleeding, depression, and obesity).
Studies have found that weight loss of about 5% over a 20 week period, can significantly reduce pain and physical disability in persons who are overweight. (There are also many other health benefits of weight loss).
Biomechanical interventions such as knee braces, knee sleeves and foot orthoses can considerably reduce pain and joint stiffness in persons with knee osteoarthritis.
For persons with severe arthritis, a cane or walking stick can be used to decrease pain and improve mobility.
NSAIDs are common pain killer medications that are very effective at reducing pain from osteoarthritis. Many are affordable and easily accessible and include Advil, Aleve and Voltaren. (One side effect of long-term use of NSAIDs is the formation of stomach ulcers. You may need to see a doctor to be prescribed something for stomach protection if you take NSAIDs very regularly.)
Acetaminophen/paracetamol/panadol are also painkillers used for osteoarthritis pain. However, they are better for short-term use, as longer-term usage can lead to serious side effects.
Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is another drug that is very effective at relieving pain from osteoarthritis. It is more appropriate for persons with comorbidities and with osteoarthritis of multiple joints. If you have severe osteoarthritis pain, ask your doctor if you may benefit from Cymbalta.
Capsaicin cream is made from the pepper plant (capsicum) and is effective at relieving knee pain caused by osteoarthritis. You should apply it three times daily for it to be effective. It is only available by prescription. (There may be a warming effect after using capsaicin that eventually wears off after a few days. The pain-relieving effect starts after several days of regular use.)
Injection of corticosteroids into the joint can decrease inflammation and is very effective at reducing pain. Some persons claim to have pain relief for months using this method. If you have severe pain from osteoarthritis, ask your doctor if this may be a treatment option for you.
For persons who fail medical treatment or who have serious joint damage, surgery may be the best treatment option. Surgery may involve arthroscopy (repair of the joint done through small incisions/ cuts). However, if the joint damage cannot be repaired, you may need a total joint/knee replacement.
I hope these tips on KNEE OSTEOARTHRITIS were helpful; REMEMBER, YOUR HEALTH IS INVALUABLE.
By Dr. Lawarna Matthew
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Dr. J. Lawarna Matthew