It is well known by most people that arthritis in one of the most common medical problems that affect our aging population. I have noticed over time that this disease is affecting the younger adult as well as a result of harmful lifestyle changes that are prevalent in our community. On this article I will focus on some of the most common questions I get regarding arthritis related Knee Pain.
1- What is Arthritis?
The dictionary defines it as painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. There are many kinds of arthritis but in this article I will concentrate on Osteoarthritis, which is the most common kind and one of the oldest medical problems to exist. It has been a bane of human existence and as a result numerous treatments have been invented, developed, and applied to those afflicted with this degenerative joint disease. Even with all good intentions and efforts we still haven’t found a cure for this disorder and we have been basically just treating the symptoms. It is a disease in which the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones at the joints breaks down and bony overgrowth occurs.
2- Why is Arthritis of the Knee so Common?
People are living much longer and are getting heavier and heavier, it is a well known fact that obesity is a significant risk factor for arthritis of the knee. Osteoarthritis afflicts almost two thirds of the population over 65 years of age. As humans get older their tissues will degenerate as a result of time and use. There are factors that contribute to this disorder, such as female sex, obesity, injuries of the joints, repetitive stress on a particular joint and genetics.
There are other disorders also contribute to the onset of this disease, such as malformed joints, bone or cartilage, rheumatoid arthritis and even diabetes.
3- It is a Real Burden.
The cost of treating this disorder is in the billions and involves prescription medicines, over the counter medications, natural products known as nutriceuticals and braces, as well as a host of other gadgets & gizmos to assist with symptomatology and function. Yet, even with all this, there is no cure although I know that our medical colleagues and other scientists are working on biologically active products, like PRP, stem cells, etc., that may soon bring hope to those suffering this disorder
4- Is there a way to prevent it?
Although this disease doesn’t have a definite cure there are things we can do to help these patients to alleviate their pain and help them become more functional. One of the main factors contributing to their OA of the knee is obesity, which is now pandemic, and although most people don’t really comply with a diet program I still believe it is important to incorporate counseling on this for better success.
We promote modest weight loss of 10-20 lbs. to all our obese patients if feasible and we have a program for those who are interested.
5- Complications that Can Occur with Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that worsens over time and joint pain and stiffness may become severe enough to make daily tasks difficult. When joint pain is this severe, doctors may suggest joint replacement surgery.
Rapid or complete breakdown of the cartilage may result in loose tissue in the joint. Stress fractures can occur as the bone or joint becomes weaker and deterioration or rupture of the tendons and ligaments can also occur leading to instability of the joint. This can facilitate falls and further injuries. In severe cases even bone death can occur, which is known as osteonecrosis.
6- If it can’t be cured completely, can it be treated and How?
This disorder is treated symptomatically and physically, that is to say, we can recommend medical treatment and exercises to help decrease pain, improve function and strengthen the muscles and ligament of the affected joint, in this case the Knee Joint.
At our Knee Pain Clinic we treat our patients with simple over-the-counter medications and naturals means first. If these don’t have the intended effect the patient may require prescription strength medications that we give as needed but the treatment that I favor is Viscosupplementation therapy and rehabilitation of the knee function by the implementation of a physical medicine program. There are many cases that require balance training and other forms of rehabilitation in order to improve the function and strength of the knee joint structures.
Viscosupplementation therapy consists of injecting a natural substance that was discovered from the rooster comb by an Italian company and now produced in an injection form that we introduce into the knee with specialized equipment for accurate placement. The results have been very good so far and in many cases the results are very impressive.
7- What should I do if I have knee pain?
If the pain is mild it may be treated with over-the-counter medications and following the recommendations noted in section 4 above, because things that prevent it can also help treat it during the initial phase. Once the disease progresses the patient will need to receive stronger medication, by prescription, that will help relieve pain and inflammation.
In the most advanced cases, where the degenerative changes are too severe and unresponsive to conservative therapy, surgery may be indicated. Before I recommend surgery I will treat the arthritic knee with viscosupplementation first, which as stated above, consists of a series of virtually painless intra-articular injections of a natural product called sodium hyaluron. In most cases this provides relief of pain and improves function of the knee joint if the pain is caused by arthritis and not by a meniscal tear.
If you or a loved one suffers from this disabling disease, visit one of our the Knee Pain Clinics in the Valley. Call 956- 687-8531.
Written by Manuel J. Sanchez, MD, Knee Pain Clinics, McAllen. Brown