Arthritis is a general term meaning “inflammation of the joint”. To help provide smooth, pain-free motion to the joint, the bones in a joint are covered with a tough, lubricating tissue called cartilage. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a degenerative joint disease that causes the layer of the cartilage to gradually wear away until bone begins to rub against bone. Knee arthritis can affect one or both knees. Symptoms of knee arthritis include pain, swelling, and stiffness. In some patients, redness, clicking, and grinding occur. In addition, some patients with knee arthritis have a feeling that the knee is collapsing or giving out on them when they are walking. The initial stages of knee arthritis treatment include over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications as long as patients are able to tolerate those. In addition, patients with knee arthritis can try physical therapy, exercises, appropriate weight loss under the care of a physician, cortisone injections. Furthermore, there are injections for patients suffering with knee arthritis, called hyaluronic acid which can be useful for arthritis in the knee. For patients who fail conservative management, that is management without surgery, a total knee replacement may be indicated.
Why am I so stiff in the morning or when I get up from a chair?
Arthritis causes the muscles and tendons to become tight with inactivity, which causes stiffness. Moving the joint back and forth before rising may help.
Is exercise good or bad for my arthritic joints?
Although exercise may cause discomfort, proper exercise can help nourish the cartilage, strengthen the muscles, and prolong life of joints for patients with osteoarthritis.
Will arthritis spread to other parts of my body?
There are many types of arthritis. Some types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, almost always affect multiple joints, so it is not unusual for these types of arthritis to spread to spread from one joint to another. Some patients may have osteoarthritis in both knees and hips. Osteoarthritis does not “spread”; however, other joints may be affected, especially if you change your gait (walking pattern) to compensate from pain and lack of motion.
Should I use a cane or crutch?
If you are walking with a limp, your surgeon may recommend an assistive device. A cane can helps distribute some force away from the involved leg and mat reduce pain. It is important for patients with osteoarthritis to use a cane properly. Use a cane on the opposite hand of your affected arthritic joint. For example, if your left knee hurts, the cane goes on the right. The handle of the cane should reach your wrist when your arm is hanging at your side.