What is Knee Osteoarthritis, and how is it treated?
Knee Osteoarthritis can be a source of misery for its sufferers. It affects about 1 in 7 people. Continue reading how you can manage the pain associated with it.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and the knee is one of the most commonly affected joints
Before we get into the treatment options, let us first discuss what exactly Osteoarthritis is
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis affects millions worldwide. It occurs when the protective layer around the bones start wearing down, kind of like a tire on a car. This then causes inflammation which in turn causes pain. The inflammation itself also further speeds up the breakdown of the joint. During this process you also stop making the lubrication for the joint, which is hyaluronic acid, which causes more friction and further breakdown as well. You can get Osteoarthritis in any joints of the body, but your weightbearing joints like your knees are most commonly affected.
Knee osteoarthritis can be caused because of several reasons. It is often hereditary, but your risk of developing it increases if you are obese or have a history of knee injury.
Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis
The pain you experience in your knee is the biggest indication of the problem. However, to confirm your suspicion lookout for the following symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis:
- Swelling in the knees
- Experiencing pain after you use your knees more than you normally do
- Experiencing pain after extended periods of rest, like after waking up in the morning
- The joint might feel tender to the touch
- Frequent popping and cracking of the joints
- Loss of flexibility in the knees
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms your doctor may want to perform an X-ray which will typically show decreased amount of joint space, osteophytes (bone spurs), and sometimes cysts under the bone.
How is Knee Osteoarthritis treated?
If you have not tried anything for your arthritis the first thing that would be recommended is conservative treatments. This consists of measures to reduce the inflammation and swelling which will reduce your pain. Typical recommendations are RICE (rest, ice, compression with a brace, elevation, NSAID medication (Advil, Motrin, Aleve) and physical therapy. You can also try some anti-inflammatory supplements like glucosamine, fish oil, curcumin and bromelin.
If conservative measures fail the next recommendation is usually a steroid injection. This is taking a strong anti-inflammatory and placing it right into the site of inflammation. It is important that this injection is performed guided (ultrasound, fluoroscopy) to confirm proper placement otherwise you may not get relief. If this treatment lasts for several months it can be repeated.
If the steroid does not provide long relief the next option is HA injections. As we discussed HA is the lubrication for the joint and is lost with arthritis. The goal of HA injections is to lubricate the joint and to reduce inflammation, we like to think of it as getting an oil change. The goal of HA is to get at least 6 months of relief and if this is achieved it can be repeated as many times as you get at least 6 months of pain relief.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)
Your platelets are the healers of your body. They are what go to areas of injury and cause clot formation which starts the healing process. By concentrating these platelets and injecting them into places like your knee joint, where they can’t normally get to, they will release growth and healing factors that will change the inflammatory environment and help with pain and function.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy has gained notoriety in the world of non-invasive medicine due to the fast results it offers. This therapy uses the stem cell your body produces in the bone marrow. All cells start as stem cells in the body, which then develop into different types of cells with different functions.
Studies suggest that introducing these cells to the affected site can trigger the healing process. This regenerative therapy slows down the degeneration of the knee cartilage and reduces the pain significantly.
Traditionally if steroid and HA injections failed the next recommendation would be a knee replacement. This is a very big procedure, the make a large incision, remove your knee and replace it with a metal and plastic knee. As you can imagine there is a big recovery, taking almost a year to full recovery. There is also a 20% complication rate with this procedure ranging from continued pain, to scar tissue formation and stiffness, to infection and possible removal of the joint. Luckily, with regenerative therapies this can many times be avoided. As the regenerative world continues to advance hopefully knee replacements with be a thing of the past.
Apex Center For Regenerative Medicine
At Apex Center for Regenerative Medicine, we offer various services for all your knee pain. If you would like to learn more you can visit our website at regeneratenj.com, like us on Facebook and YouTube at Apex Center for Regenerative Medicine and on Instagram @regeneratenj. If you are interested in scheduling a consult and talk to Dr. Savarino about your options you can call us at (732) 385-APEX (2739) and schedule your appointment today. Remember, Don’t Operate…Regenerate!