If you are experiencing mild to severe pain in your knee associated with stiffness or swelling, arthritis might just be the cause. It is important to contact a physical therapist immediately. Commencing treatment early eliminates the need for pain killers and surgery later on. Physical therapy helps to relieve pain, strengthen the knee joint, and provide motion and flexibility, so you can get back to your normal activities in a short time.
Know Your Knee
The knee is the largest joint in the body. It’s made up of the lower end of the thighbone (femur), the upper end of the shinbone (tibia), and the kneecap (patella). The surface of these 3 bones is covered with articular cartilage that helps the bones move easily, and prevent them from rubbing against each other. The synovial membrane, a tissue that covers the remaining surfaces of the knee joint, secretes a fluid that lubricates the cartilage and reduces friction in the knee joint. The bones of the knee are held by muscles, ligaments, and tendons that give stability to the knee joint.
What is Knee Arthritis?
Arthritis is a degenerative disease that attacks the bones and damages the cartilage that makes the bones able to move easily without friction. The loss of cartilage results in the bones rubbing against each other, and this causes pain. Knee arthritis occurs when the cartilage in the knee joint is damaged, causing pain in the knee. This can range from mild to moderate to severe. There are different forms of knee arthritis. They include:
Osteoarthritis: This form of arthritis is common in persons from 40 years of age most especially women. It can also occur in younger people
Rheumatoid arthritis: This happens when your immune system attacks your joints. The synovial membrane covering the joints becomes inflamed. This can damage the cartilage and lead to stiffness and pain in the knee
Post-traumatic arthritis: This begins to develop after a knee injury, where fractures and tears may damage the cartilage
Symptoms of Knee Arthritis
If you have arthritis of the knee, you might experience the following symptoms. Symptoms vary between individuals, and can begin as mild, but might worsen over time.
Stiffness of the knee joint, which makes it difficult to bend or straighten the knee
Loose pieces of cartilage may get trapped in the joint, causing the knee to lock
Squeaky or clicking noise in the knee joint during movement
Pain may cause a feeling of weakness or buckle in the knee.
You might notice symptoms in the morning, or after sitting for a long period of time – this is because of rest or inactivity. Many people with arthritis also experience increased joint pain with weather changes. Simple activities like walking or stretching exercises may relieve the pain in the beginning, but might not later on.
Knee Arthritis Diagnosis
At Polygon PT, a physical therapist will perform a physical examination on your knee, looking out for arthritis symptoms. We will also require you to undergo imaging tests such as X-ray, or MRI-scan with your doctor as additional diagnostic methods. Once the type and severity of arthritis are diagnosed, a treatment plan will be created for you.
Treatment for Knee Arthritis
There is no cure for arthritis, but different treatment methods can help relieve symptoms. It is important to seek help immediately when you suspect knee arthritis. This means treatment can begin early, and surgery can be avoided.
For mild to moderate arthritis, physical therapy is effective for managing symptoms. Your physical therapist will create a custom treatment plan for you. The plan is likely to include:
These help to reduce pain and stiffness, and increase joint strength and mobility.
Nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help with the pain. Cortisone, a steroidal anti-inflammatory drug can be injected into the joint to provide relief from pain, and reduce swelling. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate are used to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. We don’t recommend medications, as they might have potentially harmful side effects.
For long-lasting and severe knee arthritis where physical therapy and other forms of treatment such as steroid injections and anti-inflammatory medication do not provide relief from pain, surgery is recommended. Different types of knee surgery include:
After surgery, post-operative rehab is crucial to restoring strength and mobility to the knee. This is because surgery alone doesn’t guarantee that your knee will be flexible and that you can return to normal activities. Your post-operative rehab program will be customized to suit your needs.
Get Started on Physical Therapy for Knee Arthritis Today
Beginning treatment early for arthritis eliminates the need for surgery and harmful painkillers. Even if you are considering having surgery or have had surgery, post-operative rehab is still important. Our therapists at Polygon PT are excited to see how we can help relieve your pain and get you back to performing your normal activities in no distant time. Request an appointment with us now.