Get to Know Knee Osteoarthritis
Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and contributes to a significant amount of pain and disability. Knee OA is a degenerative disease that is caused by a breakdown of cartilage (tissue covering the ends of bones). When cartilage breaks down it exposes joint surfaces and results in excessive bony contact. This excessive joint surface friction can cause bony deformation and bone spurring. With abnormal bone growth, the joint can become painful and unstable.
The joint may become swollen, stiff, and painful which can make it difficult to bend or straighten the knee. Typically, OA causes joint stiffness in the morning for the first 30 minutes of the day. As the day goes on and the joints are used, the pain and discomfort can get worse. Rest tends to provide relief from achy, arthritic joints.
There are several risk factors in the development of knee OA, some of which include:
- Family history
- Excess weight
Does Running Cause Osteoarthritis?
It appears that running does not increase the risk for knee OA (Roberts, 2018). In fact, running may even have a protective effect against joint degeneration. It is also important to recognize the other positive benefits of running which include the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and depression.
How Can Knee OA Be Managed?
Exercise can be used to improve or maintain muscle strength, physical fitness, and overall health. It can be useful for weight loss or maintenance of a healthy weight and strengthening the muscles surrounding the joint. Exercise can also reduce joint pain and stiffness and has the potential to improve mobility. Recent research has shown that the combination of manual therapy with prescribed exercises provides a significant relief of knee osteoarthritis symptoms.
Aquatic exercise or “pool therapy” can be another effective method of pain reduction and can improve overall function. Water supports your body weight and reduces strain on your joints. Aerobics, stretching, strengthening, and range of motion are all examples of activities that can be performed while in a pool.
Nutritional supplementation and dietary changes can also be an important component of OA management. For instance, Glucosamine has been studied for years and is shown to be effective in reducing pain and improving function in OA patients. Also, ginger and turmeric have been shown to reduce pain, inflammation, and stiffness in OA patients.
Heat can relieve muscle pain, reduce muscle spasms and tightness, and enhance range of motion. Ice plays a role in reducing swelling, decreasing pain, and minimizing inflammation. Lastly, knee braces and foot insoles may provide an improvement in walking distance and overall function.
Ultimately, there are many different treatment options for patients with knee OA. Talk to your healthcare provider about the right treatment options for you.
Roberts, W. (2018). Running causes knee osteoarthritis: Myth or misunderstanding. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(3), 142-142. 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098227