People suffering from knee osteoarthritis aren’t always aware of how many treatment options are available to them. At Phoenix Regenerative Medicine in Tempe, AZ, we understand how painful this condition can be, and how it can get in the way of your daily life and favorite activities.
How Can You Treat Knee Osteoarthritis?
Regenerative medicine injections may provide relief from knee osteoarthritis, without having to resort to surgery. These injections have the benefit of being minimally invasive. They utilize your body’s own healing abilities through the platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, in your blood. Platelets are already used by your body when it responds to an injury, so this injection is a concentrated version of your body’s natural response to an injury.
How Does It Work?
The first step of treatment will be to collect a small sample of your blood. The blood sample will be spun by a centrifuge machine at high speeds to separate the PRP from the rest of the blood. The PRP can now be injected into the painful joint, where it can begin to put its healing and restorative abilities to work.
Like PRP treatment, viscosupplementation injections work by encouraging and supporting the body’s natural healing response. This treatment utilizes hyaluronic acid, something that is already found in the body. The hyaluronic acid is administered via gel injection to the joint.
How Does It Work?
Hyaluronic acid encourages flexibility and hydration throughout the joint. Meanwhile, the gel base it is injected with will help to soothe and lubricate the joint. This can help the joint move with more fluidity and less discomfort.
When it comes to degenerative bone diseases such as osteoarthritis of the knee, movement is critical. A physical therapist can form an individual treatment plan that works for you. The goal will be to increase your comfort level, range of motion, and strengthen the muscles supporting your knees. Attending physical therapy can often significantly ease stiffness.
In addition to teaching you exercises that can improve the function of your knee, your physical therapist may also practice manual therapy. Manual therapy involves the physical therapist gently manipulating your joints to further free up their ability to function as well as possible. Your therapist will also have the experience to recommend the best ways you can continue your exercises at home.
Occupational Therapy Adjustments
Occupational therapy helps you apply additional physical therapy techniques into your daily life. An occupational therapist will make recommendations on how you can further increase your daily comfort levels. Some common recommendations may include:
- Exercises that will promote movement without causing additional damage
- Energy-saving and joint protection techniques
- Recommendations on how to manage symptoms during work or leisure
- The right compression garments or braces
An occupational therapist will be able to take an objective look at your lifestyle as a whole, as well as the severity of your symptoms. They can then put their knowledge and experience to use by helping you find ways to increase your comfort level and protect your joints as you continue on with your life and activities.
Although we prefer to exhaust other options first, we understand that sometimes surgery is the right solution in some cases that do not respond to other treatments. There are three common surgeries for osteoarthritis of the knee. Each one is slightly different, so it’s important to explore the different options with your doctor so you can determine the right call for you.
Osteotomy works best when there is only one side of the knee that has been damaged, leaving the other side of the knee still healthy. During an osteotomy, the most common course of action would be to remove small portions of bone from the tibia. The goal is to relieve some of the weight that the damaged portion of your knee carries. This will allow the healthy portion of your knee to pick up the slack.
The bones will be secured during surgery with staples or pins. Recovery time varies, with most patients able to walk normally between 3 to 6 months. It may take longer before any sports or jogging is recommended. This surgery is most commonly recommended for active patients under 60 years old.
Arthroscopy is used with the goal of being as minimally invasive as possible. A tiny incision is made for an equally small tube. Through this tube, your surgeon can insert a video camera and assess the bone of your knee. It is especially helpful if an MRI or X-ray of the knee hasn’t given clear enough answers.
In addition to being a diagnostic tool, it can also be used for treatment. If it has been established that treatment is needed, and that this treatment can be effectively carried out during arthroscopy, additional incisions can be made for small instruments.
Joint replacement is often considered the last resort when it comes to osteoarthritis treatment, but it is sometimes necessary. There are several different types of knee replacement surgery, which include:
- Cartilage restoration
- Partial knee replacement
- Kneecap replacement
- Total knee replacement.
- A revision to a previous total knee replacement
The most common kind of knee replacement surgery would be a total knee replacement. The damaged bone is smoothed over and capped with metal or plastic to prevent further damage.
Things You Can Do at Home
Professional help has the best chance of helping you manage life with osteoarthritis. Your doctor can help make sure that anything you try at home is going to help you instead of harm you. It’s important that you don’t do anything that could further damage your knee, or will conflict with the professional treatment you may receive.
That said, there are some things you can do at home that may help to increase your comfort level, whether you are waiting to hear back about a consultation, or looking for ways you can supplement your treatment.
Hot or Cold Therapy
Heat and cold have been used for generations to soothe pain. Whether it’s a sore back from a long day at work, a sprained ankle, or chronic pain such as osteoarthritis, applying a hot compress or an ice pack may help manage painful symptoms.
Heat works by relaxing the muscles. It may also help to lubricate and warm up the joints before you begin to exercise. On the other hand, cold works by decreasing inflammation. By reducing the swelling around an irritated joint, it may help decrease the pain associated with that inflammation.
A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to inflammation. By making adjustments to your diet, you may find some of your symptoms easing as the inflammation around your joint decreases. Safely losing some excess weight may also be helpful, as it will reduce the strain and pressure put onto the painful joint.
While physical therapy can help teach you the best exercises to safely improve the function of your knee, there are additional activities you can do on your own that could help as well. If you have a pool available to you, swimming is a great way to exercise. It can strengthen your muscles and core without putting too much strain on your joints.
If swimming isn’t your thing, maybe cycling or yoga would be. Cycling reduces the pressure on your knee, but still exercises the muscles around it. Yoga can reduce stiffness and increase mobility, and often has the added benefit of being relaxing.
In cases where swelling and discomfort is persistent, elevating your legs may help to reduce inflammation and provide some relief. If you want to try elevating your legs, start off with 20 or 30 minutes once or twice a day.
FAQ for Knee Osteoarthritis
1. What Is It?
Knee Osteoarthritis occurs when the articular cartilage that supports the joint of your knee begins to thin out. This lack of a cushion between the joints can cause discomfort. Osteoarthritis of the knee can also involve bone spurs, and often narrows the space between the joints of the knee as the bone wears down. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body.
2. What Causes It?
Despite having the same symptoms, there are two types of osteoarthritis that can affect your knees.
Also known as “wear and tear” osteoarthritis, it is the natural loss of cartilage over time. Symptoms often begin when you reach around 60 years old, although the onset and severity of symptoms can vary significantly. Protecting your joints and maintaining a healthy weight and diet can help delay the onset of primary osteoarthritis.
This type of osteoarthritis is triggered prematurely by something specific. An injury that affects the function of your knee may cause secondary osteoarthritis. It can also be caused by genetic factors, obesity, and inflammation. Exercise, as long as it’s safe for the joints, can help to delay or prevent secondary osteoarthritis by strengthening the muscles and keeping the joints of your knee properly aligned.
3. What Are the Symptoms?
You may want to seek out a diagnosis for knee osteoarthritis if you are struggling with all or some of the following symptoms:
- Stiffness, especially after just waking up or resting
- A grating or crackling feeling when the joint is in use, sometimes accompanied by “popping”
- Small, hard lumps around the knee, which could be bone spurs
- Swelling or tenderness around the area
- A noticeable loss of flexibility
4. How Is It Diagnosed?
Osteoarthritis of the knee is usually diagnosed through an X-ray or MRI scan. An X-ray can reveal bone spurs and can help determine if the bones of the knee are coming closer together, which would indicate a loss of cartilage. An MRI may be used in some cases that are proving more difficult to diagnose, as it will be able to show the knee’s cartilage.
Another option for diagnosis would be blood or joint fluid analysis, primarily to rule out infection.
5. Am I a Good Candidate for Treatment?
It’s important to consult with a knowledgeable doctor before you settle on the right treatment. There are some factors that can affect whether or not a treatment will work for you. Particularly when it comes to surgery, this may include age, weight, and bone density.
Less invasive treatments, such as PRP or viscosupplementation injections, is oftentimes a great place to start as you consider your treatment options. Regardless of your age or severity of symptoms, the right doctor can help you safely seek out the right plan of action, so you can get back to living your life to the fullest.
Are You Ready To Move Towards a Better Tomorrow?
Our team has been putting our extensive experience to work, helping people rediscover a higher level of comfort. We believe in putting our patients and their ability to thrive first and foremost. If you are ready to explore our effective, low-cost treatment options, contact us at Phoenix Regenerative Medicine in Tempe, AZ today!