According to the Arthritis Foundation, roughly 30 million people are living with pain from a wear-and-tear form of arthritis, better known as osteoarthritis. It is the most common cause of disability among adults and is most common in the knees. Once the disease’s process starts, the joint damage can’t be reversed. Osteoarthritis symptoms tend to vary depending on the joints that are affected. It can also vary from person to person and they tend to develop slowly over time. Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Joint Pain: Worsens with activity and better with rest. Exercise is an important part of arthritis therapy. Painful joints may be tender to the touch and in cases of severe osteoarthritis, the joint pain often occurs when you’re resting and when you’re sleeping.
- Stiffness: It is common to experience stiffness caused by osteoarthritis in the morning.
- Swelling: Caused by excess fluid in the joints.
- Crepitus: Crackling or grating sensation when moving an affected joint and it occurs when the normally smooth surfaces inside the joint start becoming rough as the bones rub together.
- Bony Protuberances: Bony outgrowths or bone spurs under the skin near joints. In some cases, these protuberances grow bigger.
- Loss of Flexibility: In advanced cases, it is common to lose flexibility in the affected joint.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis slowly develop over time. Typically, your knees will hurt when you move them or after you heard them. They may also feel tender when any pressure is applied to them. Also, your knees may start to feel stiff, or you might not be able to move your knees through their full range of motion if you’ve been inactive for a certain period of time.
It’s common to feel or hear a grating sensation when you move your knees, usually because of changes to cartilage, which is firm tissue between your joints that helps with motion. When the cartilage becomes rough or wears down, this causes bone to rub on bone.
Diagnosis of osteoarthritis begins with your doctor getting your medical history. You will probably be asked when your symptoms started, how they’ve changed over time, if you have stiffness in the morning, and the other medical conditions you or close family members may have.
At this point, you should let your doctor know if anyone else in your family has osteoarthritis, since a family history of the disease is a risk factor. It is common for people with wear-and-tear osteoarthritis to have family members with the condition.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to manage osteoarthritis and get relief from knee pain. Here are some changes you can make:
- Low-impact aerobic exercises such as walking, biking, and swimming are considered joint-friendly. Joint-pounding exercises, like running and tennis, can irritate your already damaged knees. Remember to listen to your body; if doing something is causing pain, don’t do it.
- Strengthening exercises help support the muscles around the joint, and regularly stretching can maintain and improve flexibility around the knee.
- Make sure you warm up before your workout, as well as cool-down after you’re finished.
- Extra weight puts a lot of pressure on your already damaged knees. Losing weight can help with knee pain.
- Flat, flexible shoes that are similar to the foot’s natural mobility can decrease the force placed upon the knee during daily activities.
- Canes and knee braces also help decrease knee osteoarthritis pain and improving function and mobility.
Knee osteoarthritis is a chronic condition, which means that the chances of your experience pain is always possible. If pain becomes more severe and occurs at rest rather than after periods of activity, or if it wakes you from sleep, it could be a sign that your knee osteoarthritis is advancing. It is important that you be sure to let your doctor know about new or worsening symptoms, especially since it could mean that you need an adjustment to your treatment plan.