Most people just assume that stiffness and discomfort in the knees are a common part of aging. However, the reality is that any sort of discomfort is typically a sign that something is not functioning correctly. Many people who deal with painful knees in their middle and later years are actually suffering from osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that happens when the protective tissue surrounding the bones in your knees becomes eroded. This causes bones to grind against each other, resulting in inflammation and pain.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, roughly 27 million people in the United States alone have osteoarthritis, and the knee is the most commonly affected area. It is more likely to occur among those who are older, have a higher weight, are female, or participate in long-distance running, but osteoarthritis can happen to anyone.
What Are Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in the Knee?
Most people know that osteoarthritis can cause knee pain, but there are also many other conditions that cause knee pain. The discomfort associated with osteoarthritis tends to meet a few specific qualifications. If you are dealing with one or more of these symptoms, it may be a sign that you have osteoarthritis in your knee.
All the constant wear and tear in the knee joint tends to result in swelling around the knees. The swollen area tends to look reddened, and it may be warm to the touch. In some cases, this swelling is made even more noticeable due to the bone spurs that can form. Swelling associated with osteoarthritis tends to come and go. Many people find that it is more severe in the morning or at other times when the knee joint has not moved in a while.
An osteoarthritic joint can be rather painful. Unlike a knee injury, the pain associated with osteoarthritis tends to appear very gradually. At first, it will just happen in the morning or when you try to move after staying still for a while. It may come and go over the course of several days, but it typically worsens throughout the years. Certain triggers, such as damp weather, standing up, the cold, or climbing stairs can make knee pain worsen.
In the later stages of osteoarthritis, damaged joints can cause a distinctly deformed look. This tends to occur because the spaces between joints are diminished and the muscles around the knees become thinner. The end result is typically a knee that looks smaller or shrunken when it is not swollen. Knee deformities tend to be more noticeable when a patient is standing, and they may cause a person to stand with their knee and lower leg turned outwards or inwards.
Without all the lubricating tissue surrounding the knee joint, people with osteoarthritis may find that their knee may suddenly lock up. It might get stuck in a straight or bent position. This type of immovability normally happens suddenly, and it will go away after a little while. Osteoarthritis can also make it tricky to move knees through their full range of motion during activities like walking up stairs or climbing. People who try to avoid moving their knee due to osteoarthritis pain may end up with weakened knee muscles. Weak muscles will make this symptom even worse.
Though joints typically move without noticeable sound, osteoarthritis can cause your joint movements to become audible. As the rough parts of the bones rub together, you may begin to hear noises while you are moving your knees. Patients with osteoarthritis describe these noises as sounding like popping, grinding, cracking, snapping, or crackling noises. Like other symptoms of arthritis in the knee, these strange noises are normally worse right after waking up or leaving the knee immobile for some time period.
What Can You Do About Osteoarthritis in the Knee?
Osteoarthritis is definitely uncomfortable, but it does not have to control your life. Treatments for this condition rely on painkilling medications and exercises to strengthen and protect the knee joint. At Maplewood of Sauk Prairie, those suffering from physical ailments have access to a variety of rehabilitation services. Our talented and dedicated staff can provide rehabilitation, balance, and movement therapy that will make it easier to regain function in your knees.