Within your knee join there is a very smooth fibrous connective tissue, known as articular cartilage. This covers the areas where each bone comes into contact with one another, the $20 phrase would be articular surfaces.
Under normal circumstances, a normal joint this articular cartilage allows for smooth movement within the joint as well as acting as a shock absorber. However, there is a very common disease called Osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease)and that is the degradation of this much needed cartilage. As the disease progresses, the cartilage itself becomes thinner and in some cases may wear away altogether. Along with decreased mobility, there is also pain associated. In addition, the bones themselves become thicker and may form bony “spurs”. Associated with these changes is the inflammation of the synovial membrane or thin lining which surrounds the knee joint to keep the synovial fluid or lubrication in place. Osteoarthritis can form in any joint but is more common in weight bearing joints such as the knee and hip.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
What exactly causes of osteoarthritis are unknown and the reason some people get it and others do not is still being researched. However there are a number of factors that are commonly associated with the onset of the disease that show a direct link to increasing your chances of Osteoarthritis:
Previous Injuries – Previous trauma to a particular joint increases the risk osteoarthritis forming there.
Heredity – Some individuals have a defective gene responsible for cartilage production which increases their susceptibility to osteoarthritis.
Weight - As osteoarthritis commonly occurs in the weight bearing joints, like the knee and hip, excessive body weight can hasten the progression of the disease.
Repetitive overuse – This may be as a result of excessive exercising or repeated strain on a joint over a number long period of time.
Crystal Deposits – Some crystal deposits such as uric acid crystals in gout may accumulate in joints and cause cartilage degeneration and wearing.
Common Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Deeply aching pain in the joint and pain will often be increased with movement.
Inflammation that is in the joint more often than not.
Stiffness in the joint, most often in the morning. Movement or gentle stretching will decrease the stiffness. A “grinding” feeling or actual sounds coming from the joint upon movement.
If you’re over 50 years of age, osteoarthritis is common in your age group and in particular, women seem more prone to have this condition in one or both knees. Additionally, individuals that play sports such as football and have had a previous injury should be on alert for the symptoms of this condition.
Treatments for Osteoarthritis
While there’s still no cure for this condition, there are a number of things you can do to help alleviate the pain. Wearing a knee support or brace will help by compressing the area around the joint and giving it support. Some people get relief through the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. Losing weight and lightening the burden of the knees is another positive step you can take and significantly slow down the progression of the disease. Hot and cold treatments as needed can offer a good measure of relief from the pain and inflammation, particularly after exercise or activities that used those joints. For extreme cases, knee replacement is also an option.