There are several types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis by far. This painful, debilitating condition affects millions of people every year. At Phoenix Regenerative Medicine in Tempe, AZ, we understand how important your knee health is to your independence and overall quality of life. That’s why, today, we’re taking a look at the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis so you can know when to schedule an appointment with a medical expert and get relief.
What Are the Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis?
Knee osteoarthritis symptoms vary on a case-by-case basis. Often, it develops so slowly that it can be hard to tell if the condition exists. However, the symptoms tend to worsen over time. At first, you may just notice stiffness in your affected knee when you wake up or you’ve been sedentary for several hours at a time. However, over time, you may start to notice that your knee hurts during or after walking. You also may experience:
- Limited range of motion
- A grating sensation
- Bone spurs
When Should I Schedule an Appointment With a Doctor?
You may not need to schedule an appointment with a doctor if you have a little knee stiffness in the morning that goes away after walking around for a bit. You may not need to schedule an appointment with a doctor if you have a little knee pain occasionally that eases when you ice it for a bit. However, if you feel like your quality of life is being affected significantly, or you have to take a lot of painkillers to achieve comfort, you should schedule an appointment with a regenerative medicine specialist.
What Complications May Arise If I Don’t Seek Treatment?
To reiterate, this condition’s symptoms can be expected to worsen over time. You may experience only occasional pain when walking in the early stages of this degenerative disease. However, chronic pain that seems relentless may occur if you do not get treated. This chronic pain can result in inadequate sleep, major depressive disorder, and other serious consequences. Furthermore, a significant range of motion loss can seriously affect your independence.
How Is This Condition Diagnosed?
During your initial evaluation, you will undergo a physical examination. Your knee will be inspected for redness and swelling, and we will ask you about any tenderness or range of motion loss you are experiencing. Depending on the results of the physical examination, an imaging test, like an X-ray or MRI may be recommended.
X-ray images don’t show cartilage, but cartilage loss can be detected with this imaging test. The narrower the space is between your knee bones, the more likely it is that you suffer from osteoarthritis. X-ray images can also reveal bone spurs growing around the knee joint. MRIs can show cartilage and other soft tissues. However, they are typically only used to provide additional information in extremely complex cases.
What Other Tests May Be Necessary?
Sometimes, a physical examination and imaging test are all that is necessary to provide an accurate diagnosis. In other cases, lab tests may be required. For example, a blood test may be necessary to rule out rheumatoid arthritis or other potential conditions causing the knee pain. Similarly, joint fluid analysis may be recommended if it seems likely that the pain and inflammation is caused by an infection or gout.
How Is This Condition Treated?
If you have mild or moderate pain caused by your osteoarthritis, you may be able to improve your quality of life by taking acetaminophen. However, you will need to keep a diligent eye on how much you take because liver damage can occur with excessive acetaminophen use. NSAIDs can also be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis pain, but that doesn’t mean they are safe for long-term use, especially when taken orally.
For example, oral NSAID use can cause such problems as bleeding or heart problems, gastrointestinal distress, kidney damage, and liver damage. If you find NSAIDs to be extremely effective for the treatment of your osteoarthritis symptoms, you should strongly consider using a gel applied gently to the knee rather than pills. Duloxetine, while typically used to treat major depressive disorders, may also be effective for the treatment of chronic osteoarthritis pain.
What If I Don’t Want To Take Medicine?
If you don’t want to be reliant on painkillers to maintain comfort in your life, you’re not alone. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to rely on pills or undergo surgery to treat your osteoarthritis. Platelet-rich plasma therapy, for example, may behoove you. Platelet-rich plasma therapy, sometimes referred to as PRP, has been shown to be effective in cases of low- and moderate-grade osteoarthritis.
During this treatment, a small amount of blood will be drawn. Typically, blood is drawn from a vein in the elbow of the dominant arm because using the arm regularly will facilitate faster healing at the donor site. However, the non-dominant arm can also be used as a donor site. Once the blood is drawn, it is processed in a centrifuge and the red and white blood cells are discarded. What’s left is plasma that is very high in platelets, and that is injected into the knee.
What Else Should I Know About PRP Therapy?
You should know that PRP therapy is extremely convenient. The entire process rarely takes longer than an hour to complete, and the results are long-lasting. Individual experiences vary, but you should not be surprised if you feel reinvigorated for nine months after treatment.
You should also know that it is a lot easier to prepare for PRP injections than knee surgery. You will need to go a month without steroid injections prior to your treatment. For two weeks prior to your treatment, you should avoid the use of systemic steroids.
What Causes Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
Osteoarthritis of the knee is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage that once cushioned the ends of the bones in your knee joint. When you’re young, your cartilage is firm and slippery and prevents almost all friction when your joint moves. As you age, this cartilage deteriorates to the point that your bones rub.
What Are the Most Significant Risk Factors for Developing Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
Old age is the most significant risk factor for developing osteoarthritis of the knee. The perfectly natural wear and tear of walking is often enough to break down the cartilage in the knee, negatively affect the patella, and result in the deterioration of the connective tissues responsible for keeping the muscle attached to the bone. Sex is another very significant risk factor. Women are more likely to develop this condition than men.
Another very significant risk factor for developing this disease is a history of injuries. For example, you are more likely to develop this condition if your knee was injured during a motor vehicle accident or you twisted your knee while playing a sport. Bone deformities, certain genetic markers, and certain metabolic diseases, like hemochromatosis or diabetes, increase your risk of developing this disease significantly.
Are There Any Risk Factors That Can Be Mitigated?
Yes, there are risk factors for developing this disease that can be mitigated. For example, repeated joint stress increases the chance that you will one day develop osteoarthritis of the knee. If you have a job or hobby that results in repetitive knee stress, your chance of developing osteoarthritis of the knee increases significantly. To mitigate this risk, you may want to consider a new job or hobby.
Obesity is another risk factor for developing osteoarthritis that can be mitigated. It is ideal to maintain a body mass that is healthy for your height. However, even becoming overweight if you are obese will reduce your chance of developing osteoarthritis a lot. If you are about to embark on a weight loss journey, make sure you talk to your doctor first. Make sure the diet and exercise changes you want to make are currently healthy for you.
Schedule Your Initial Evaluation Now
Knee osteoarthritis symptoms vary. Two of the most common symptoms are stiffness and pain. However, you also may notice tenderness if you apply pressure on or near your knee. Furthermore, you may notice that you have less flexibility than you used to have, and bone spurs may grow around the affected knee. Contact us today at Phoenix Regenerative Medicine in Tempe, AZ if you believe you suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee and need relief.