Arthritis of the knee can originate from a number of conditions with painful symptoms.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of knee arthritis, generally affecting middle-aged and elderly people. Osteoarthritis is a slowly progressive degenerative disease, in which the joint cartilage has deteriorated and worn away from normal wear and tear.
With rheumatoid arthritis (RA) this is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can occur at any age generally affecting both knees, destroying the joint cartilage.
Post-traumatic arthritis – this type arthritis develops after a knee injury such as a fracture, meniscus tear, or ligament injury and can take years to show up.
While there is no direct cure for this condition, there are a number of viable treatment options to pursue. The main goals of the outlined treatment options are to slow the rate of symptomatic progression, return joint function to the patient, and preserve the mobility of the joint.
Medication can be very helpful in the removal and prevention of arthritic symptoms of the knee. These may come in the form of over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, but may be replaced by prescription-strength medication if the symptoms are deemed severe enough by a physician.
The first step involves over the counter medications. For exacerbation periods, opiates may be very helpful for short term periods. In addition, there are topical pain medications available such as capsaicin, NSAIDS and others for significant relief.
Exercise of the area where arthritis is present can help to strengthen the surrounding muscles and reduce wear-and-tear on the bone. It is also important to the patient to exercise this area in a comfortable manner as it will also stimulate blood flow to the area promoting repair. This extra blood flow will carry nutrients to the area and help stimulate the healing process.
Once an exercise regimen has been executed for multiple weeks and some strength has been return to the area, a patient can usually begin further therapy such as chiropractic treatment, massage, water exercise, or alternative therapies. This can take on a number of forms, including electrical stimulation of the area, chiropractic manipulation of the body, and using supported devices therapy for pain relief. Braces can assist stability of the joint and overall function in movement. Supportive devices such as a cane, low impact energy absorbing shoes or inserts, or a knee sleeve may be helpful
In cases where inflammatory arthritis has resulted in significant pain, a joint injection may be administered to provide relief. The Pain Management Doctor will inject a numbing agent and steroid into the joint in order to provide symptomatic relief. The pain relief from a steroid injection may last weeks to months.
Hyaluronic acid injections can help replenish the lubricating material in the arthritic joint. One of the brand names is Synvisc and is administered every two weeks as a series of three. HA injections have been shown to offer a 65% good to excellent result for up to one year.
A new type of injection is increasing in popularity called platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP Therapy). The injection is low risk and outpatient, and has been showing excellent pain relief along with the ability to potentially preserve cartilage. PRP involves a simple blood draw from the patient with it being spun in a centrifuge to concentrate platelets and growth factors for immediate injection into the knee.
In cases where arthritic damage has refused to respond to non-invasive treatments, surgery may be recommended for a more permanent relief. This is a last resort.