Understanding knee osteoarthritis along with prevention strategies from expert physicians

Many people may think that elderly individuals are the only ones who commonly face deterioration in various parts of the body, especially knee osteoarthritis, which often poses significant challenges to daily life, But do you know that osteoarthritis of the knee is not just limited to the elderly anymore? Due to various lifestyle factors, knee osteoarthritis can develop much earlier, even as early as 45 years old. Today, Trin Wellness will explain to you why knee osteoarthritis occurs earlier and provide guidance on how to prevent and care for healthy knees at a younger age.

What is osteoarthritis?

Knee Osteoarthritis is a condition caused by the deterioration of the cartilage in the knee joint. Normally, this cartilage helps promote smooth movement of the knee and acts as a cushion to support the body’s weight. However, in this condition, the deterioration of the cartilage leads to inflammation of the knee joint and reduces the production of synovial fluid, resulting in symptoms such as pain, swelling, and decreased mobility. If left untreated, it can eventually lead to deformity of the knee joint, significantly impacting daily life.

What are the causes of knee osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis of the knee can be classified into 2 main types based on its causes:

1. Primary Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis occurs following individual aging and natural factors such as

-Aging: Osteoarthritis of the knee is a condition that occurs with age and is influenced by natural factors in each individual. For example, as people get older, their bones, muscles, and various types of nerves naturally deteriorate. This process typically begins around the age of 40, with knee pain becoming more common. By the age of 60, there is a higher likelihood of developing knee osteoarthritis.

-Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop knee osteoarthritis, especially after menopause. This is because women experience a decrease in estrogen, a hormone that helps protect against knee degeneration. When this hormone is lacking, knee degeneration can occur more rapidly.

-Excess Weight: Excess body weight directly contributes to the degeneration of knee cartilage. This is because the knees have to endure greater impact forces than usual, particularly when carrying excess fat. Additionally, having an excessive amount of body fat can accelerate bone and cartilage degeneration.

such as prolonged standing, frequent stair climbing, heavy lifting, kneeling, and squatting can all contribute to improper knee usage, leading to potential knee degeneration in the future.

2. Secondary Knee Osteoarthritis

Another contributing factor to knee osteoarthritis aside from individual factors and certain diseases like gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and knee-related conditions is accidents or injuries that result in severe impacts. These incidents can accelerate the onset of knee degeneration, leading to premature knee osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of knee osteoarthritis

The manifestations of knee osteoarthritis can vary, and they can be observed and recognized by oneself. The symptoms include:
– Loud cracking or popping noises when using the knee
– Periodic knee pain
– Stiffness, tightness, and rigidity in the knee
– Swelling, tenderness, and soreness
– Misalignment or deformity of the knee, and knee instability

Stages of knee osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis can be divided into 4 stages as follows:

Stage 1: Normal function, able to use the knee normally.
Stage 2: Limited function, unable to perform heavy tasks such as lifting heavy objects or walking long distances.
Stage 3: Difficulty performing some daily activities.
Stage 4: Severe limitation in walking, requiring assistance.

Treatment for knee osteoarthritis recommended by expert physicians

Osteoarthritis can vary depending on the individual’s specific symptoms. Each method is tailored to address different presentations of the condition.

1. Behavior Modification

It starts with self-care, which involves adjusting various behaviors in daily life. This includes controlling weight through diet, reducing consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods unnecessarily, planning appropriate exercise routines without overexertion, and avoiding activities that may harm the knees, such as prolonged standing, or heavy lifting.

2.Physical Therapy and Muscle Rehabilitation

Physical therapy for knee osteoarthritis aims to strengthen the muscles around the knee to improve their strength and stability. Activities like walking are considered beneficial exercise. You can perform exercises on your own or, if your condition requires more intensive rehabilitation, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. This may involve ultrasound therapy, using knee braces for support, and other techniques.

3. Treatment with PRP Injections and Medication

Medication is often prescribed to alleviate symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. This may include pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroids. If oral medications are ineffective, your doctor may suggest platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections as a non-surgical option for knee osteoarthritis treatment. PRP involves injecting concentrated platelets extracted from your own blood into the knee joint to promote cell regeneration and relieve symptoms. It is safe, minimally invasive, and can provide relief after 2-3 injections as recommended by your doctor.

4. Knee Surgery

Knee surgery is typically considered as a last resort and is recommended by physicians based on various factors such as the severity of the condition, medical history, and mobility. Surgical options for knee osteoarthritis include procedures such as arthroplasty, where the joint surface is replaced, osteotomy to change the alignment of the knee, and arthroscopy to clean out the joint. These surgeries aim to reduce pain and improve knee function but involve a longer recovery period and potential risks associated with surgery.

What kind of knee pain should make you see a doctor?

For knee osteoarthritis, pain is often like a warning signal. If you experience occasional on-and-off pain, you can wait and observe. However, it’s important to adjust your behavior and take better care of yourself. The following ongoing knee pain symptoms should prompt you to see a doctor immediately for a diagnosis because neglecting them could affect your ability to walk and maintain balance.

Knee pain radiating down the leg and an inability to fully bend

Who have knee pain radiating down the leg and an inability to fully bend cause walking and standing difficulty. This condition may indicate an obstruction in the joint, such as bone spurs or cartilage damage, and poses a risk of difficulty standing and walking in the future.

Knee pain and swelling with bruising.

If knee pain is accompanied by swelling, bruising, and feeling warm in the knee joint, these symptoms are warning signs of severe inflammation, affecting both the bones and the surrounding tendons, or there may be bleeding in the knee joint. Typically, there may also be a fever accompanying these symptoms.

Severe knee pain, even when not in motion.

If you find that you’re just resting and still experiencing severe knee pain, especially when bearing weight or moving, the pain may worsen. This could suggest accumulated inflammation around the knee joint.

Ways to preserve knee health and prevent knee osteoarthritis:

  • Control body weight: Excess body weight can strain the knees, leading to accelerated knee degeneration.
  • Avoid overuse of the knees, such as heavy lifting, kneeling, prolonged sitting cross-legged, or prolonged kneeling, as these behaviors can increase pressure on the knees and accelerate the onset of knee osteoarthritis.
  • Avoid high-impact exercises that excessively stress the knees, as they can lead to increased pressure or excessive stretching of the knees, increasing the risk of knee osteoarthritis.
  • Regularly exercise the muscles of the lower limbs and the muscles around the knees to help strengthen the muscles and reduce the burden on the knees.

Summary of knee osteoarthritis

Everyone is at risk of developing knee osteoarthritis because we use our knees throughout the day. Regardless of how we move, the knees are crucial in enabling us to walk freely. Several activities may increase the risk of knee osteoarthritis occurring prematurely. Therefore, adjusting daily lifestyle behaviors is the only way to preserve knee health in the long term.

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