Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that is known to affect the joints in your body. This disease gradually wears away the cushion layer between the bones, otherwise referred to as the cartilage. Cartilage plays a vital role in helping your joints move smoothly, without which the bones would rub together causing pain, stiffness and limiting movement. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, osteoarthritis of the knee is a common form of knee arthritis, which gradually gets worse over time if it is not dealt with.
The early indicators of knee OA include tenderness, swelling or warmth in the knee joint, dull pain when walking or exercising and stiffness in the joints early morning. Pain may occur only after physical activity in the first stages of OA but as the condition worsens there may be pain even at rest. Patients often feel weak in the knee joint or hear cracking or clicking noises. Your doctor will examine you for swelling in the joints and check to see if you have limited range of motion. X-ray images may reveal loss of space between the knee joints because of the worn-down cartilage. Treatment plan for OA of the knee can include both medical treatments and lifestyle changes. This article looks at the treatment options available to patients of osteoarthritis of the knee.
Pain Medication For Osteoarthritis Of The Knee
Knee joint pain and stiffness respond well to over-the-counter painkillers (analgesics) like paracetamol, or dydramol but these cannot help repair the damage in your knee joint.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen help with controlling the inflammation, which can also lead to pain. The lowest effective dose of the NSAIDs for the shortest possible time is recommended. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory creams and gels to be applied directly on the painful joints may be preferred by some who cannot take NSAID tablets.
Many people report effective pain relief with Capsaicin cream, which is made from the pepper plant (capsicum) but it’s only available on prescription and needs to be applied three times a day. You may feel a warming or burning sensation when you first use it, but this generally wears off after several days. The pain relief begins after using it for a few days.
If you’ve got moderate-to-severe OA of the knee, your doctor can prescribe more powerful drugs for example opioids/anti-inflammatories, to reduce severe pain and provide you with pain relief for longer. They may have side-effects, like nausea, dizziness and confusion, so do report any problems to your doctor.
When oral medications don’t work, corticosteroid injections are given directly into the knee joint. It begins to work within a day to stop swelling and helps the pain recede for weeks to months. You could get injections several times a year, depending on your pain level.
Because these drugs work in different ways, you can combine them for greater pain relief, but only on the advice of the doctor.
Other Remedies For Knee Joint Pain
The first thing you should do is rest your inflamed joints, if you are having pain flare-ups from OA. Here are some other lifestyle changes and treatment options to relieve the pain of knee arthritis.
Applying heat or cold to your knee helps reduce stiffness, improves blood circulation and reduces pain. Some options that you can use for heat therapy are heat lamps, hot water bottle or reheatable pad. While an ice-pack can also help to ease pain in the knee. But do not apply the heat or cold pad directly on the skin.
There is more evidence to support the use of knee braces for knee arthritis to support your weakened knee joint and to help stabilize the kneecap when moving around. Braces and splints provide support to your knees, both while at rest and even when performing activities. Some types of braces stabilize your kneecap by helping it move properly without limiting your range of motion, whereas there are other types that stop your knee joint from moving in ways that cause pain. Remember to follow your doctors’ advice when it comes to selection of brace or it can do more harm than good.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
TENS machine can send pulses to the nerve endings on the skin to modify pain messages sent to your brain. It can be used for pain relief, although studies show that it doesn’t work for everyone.
Surgical Solutions For Knee Osteoarthritis
If you suffer from severe pain or mobility problems due to OA of the knee and are not responding well to medications, diet or lifestyle measures, then surgery may be recommended as a last resort option. Surgical solutions for knee arthritis include:
Arthroscopy: is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to remove damaged scar tissue, loose debris and also to fix torn cartilage
Osteotomy: improves mobility by realigning the knee joint
Cartilage Grafting: helps to replace lost cartilage with soft tissue that is harvested from your body
Total Knee Replacement: is recommended for extended pain relief. In this procedure the damaged bones and tissues are replaced with an artificial knee joint. It lasts an average of 15 years.
There is no cure for arthritis, but it can be managed carefully to slow the progression of the condition. If you think you might have OA of the knee, consult your doctor to get on a treatment plan as early as you can. The Illinois Bone & Joint Institute has more than 90 orthopedic physicians, and 20 locations throughout Chicago. We're here to help you move better so you can live better.