Knee osteoarthritis is a common and growing problem. Surgery including knee replacement is an option, but whilst generally safe and successful is certainly not a first line of treatment, so here are Physiobench's ideas for 6 lower risk interventions that can help to reduce the pain and impact of knee osteoarthritis.
1. Weight Management
It stands to reason that the heavier a person is the more load goes through the joints. There is a clear link between osteoarthritis and obesity. In Feb 2012 the journal Obesity published a study that showed that even in people without arthritic change, those who were overweight (Body mass index of 25 - 30) reported 20% higher levels of pain. For those who were obese (BMI of more that 30) the reported pain levels were 68% higher, for those with a BMI of 35 - 40 136 and above 40 a shocking 254% higher.
2. Osteoarthritis and Exercise
As well as helping with weight management, physical activity strengthens, lubricates and stabilises the joint. General exercise is beneficial, specific exercise will work to strengthen the muscles around the joint providing stability.
3. Knee Brace
A range of knee braces are available, their suitability depends on a number of factors including the part of the knee which is affected by arthritis. In knees where the arthritis is primarily behind the knee cap, known as patella femoral arthritis, a knee brace which supports the knee cap and applies gentle sideways pressure as the knee bands and straightens is the most effective. In these knees pain is felt across the front of the knee and is often worse on descending stairs and slopes.
In knees where the arthritis is primarily between the shin bone and the thigh bone, known as tibio femoral arthritis a different form of knee brace is required. In people where the arthritis is primarily on the inside or outside part of the knee an unloader brace is proven to give good relief.
4. Electrical Stimulation
5. Knee Injections for Osteoarthritis
Two types of knee injection for osteoarthritis are available a corticostreiod injection can give short term pain relief and is useful at times of flare up. Viscosupplementation injections are proven to give longer term pain relief, up to one year, in knees with mild to moderate osteoarthritis.
Over the counter pain killers and anti inflammatories will be needed at some point by almost everyone who suffers from osteoarthritis. There is some evidence to support the use of glucosamine and chondritin, which again is available for self purchase, although the research does show that this has to be taken for at least three months in order for an effect to be seen.
Disclaimer: The information on this page is written to help you understand the role of conservative care in the management of osteoarthritis. There are many possible causes for knee pain and should you have any concerns you should always seek advice from a qualified health professional such as a Chartered Physiotherapist or your GP.