Joints are like gears for the body. When functioning properly, they allow us to do remarkable things. A power lifter can lift incredible amounts of weight, a gymnast can flip and bend in amazing ways, a marathon runner can run amazingly long distances, all with the help of properly functioning joints. Your knees play a particularly important role in all these activities.
In most situations it would never be advised to stay away from physical activities, but they do unfortunately increase your risk for developing knee osteoarthritis (OA) at an earlier age. There are inherent injury risks with any activity, and injuries to the knee joint can lead to an earlier onset of this disease. The ‘wear and tear’ arthritis, as it’s most commonly known as, will affect most people at one point or another in their lifetime; and knees are very susceptible to the development of OA. Don’t stop exercising, don’t stop doing fun and physical activities; just be aware! Learn more about living with osteoarthritis.
If you do happen to develop OA in your knees, there are many options for treating your symptoms. Here is a list of the most commonly used treatment options:
- Knee Bracing
- Supportive, compressive, or offloading knee braces help reduce swelling, inflammation, and help to decrease forces on the joint
- Physical therapy designed to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint to help increase knee support
- Physiotherapists will use different modalities during in-clinic treatment like ultrasound, dry needling, acupuncture, ice therapy, and many others
- Cold Therapy
- Cold Therapy is to decrease swelling and inflammation in the knee joint after an activity or injury.
- Knee Surgery
- Total or partial knee replacements are usually the last treatment option for people suffering from pain due to their OA. If you’ve exhausted all other options, or the state of your arthritis is severe, surgery may be the most suitable option
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- These orally administered drugs are meant to reduce swelling and inflammation in a joint after an injury or as a result of OA. They do this by blocking enzymes and protein made by the body. Long-term use can cause harm to your stomach, ulcers, persistent heart burn, and other side effects.
- Topical NSAIDs
- Using an NSAID in a cream, gel, or spray form can be effective at treating OA. This is an especially important treatment option for people who can’t take these drugs orally, due to contraindications, or are needing to be on NSAIDs for an extended amount of time.
- Knee Injections
- Historically, the most commonly used knee injection for an arthritic knee has been a corticosteroid. These injections act as a strong anti-inflammatory delivered directly to the knee joint.
- Recent research and studies are starting to show the negative long-term effects of injecting corticosteroid. Degeneration of joint cartilage can end up accelerating the disease.
This leads to a relatively newer type of injectable for treatment of knee OA. It’s called Hyaluronic Acid (HA), and these injections are more and more becoming a common and effective option. HA injections, also known as viscosupplements, work to reduce symptoms in the knee joint in a few ways. In a healthy joint, a fluid called Hyaluronan is produced to provide lubrication – it’s part of synovial fluid. Unfortunately, in a joint with OA, the production of Hyaluronan is reduced.
The objective of an HA injection is to stimulate the body in the production of Hyaluronan. This has also been shown to produce similar anti-inflammartory effects that you would get from a steroid injection, without degeneration of cartilage. These injections are most effective for mild to moderate stages of OA and have shown to provide symptom relief for an average of six months.
You’ll probably find the best results for treating the symptoms of OA by combining a few of these treatment modalities, but ask your doctor or specialist how HA injections can fit into a complete treatment plan.
Are you or a loved suffering from knee osteoarthritis? Contact the Arthritis & Injury Care Centre to learn more about how we can help.