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The OA knee

4th January 2018

OA is the shortening for osteoarthritis, a condition whereby a sufferer develops problems with movement in the knee joint, including pain and stiffness. Read on to discover more about the symptoms of this condition, the probable causes, possible complications, treatments and ways to live with the condition comfortably.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

There are many symptoms of osteoarthritis. Some of these include stiffness of the knee, which can often ease after you start moving, along with some pain which often comes on at the end of the day or when moving a lot. Rest can stop the pain, but of course this can contribute to stiffness. Suffers of osteoarthritis can also suffer with a creaking or grinding sensation when they move their knee joint, while swelling is quite common too as fluid collects around the joint. If a swelling is hard instead of soft, it can be due to osteophytes.

Other possible symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knee include the knee becoming slightly bent or bowed and the muscles around the knee looking small and wasted. The knee of an osteoarthritis sufferer will usually not be very mobile and can stop the person moving freely or as naturally as normal. Patients may also find that their knee could sometimes give way due to the muscles becoming weaker, and the joint is less stable.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

There are many causes of osteoarthritis of the knee. There are a number of aggravating factors that can increase your risk of getting osteoarthritis. Some of these include being over 40 years old, as your joints can have become worn out, while being female also raises your risk of osteoarthritis. If you are overweight you are more likely to get this condition and it is more likely to worsen if you are already a sufferer. In addition, if you already suffer from other condition such as gout, you could also increase your risk of suffering from osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis can be a hereditary condition, so if you have siblings or parents with the condition you are more likely to become a sufferer yourself. Knee injuries in the past can also contribute to your probability of suffering from osteoarthritis in the future, as can operations. Your job also makes a difference, and if you have a physically demanding profession or a repetitive job you could increase your risk. Jobs such as farming or mining can be risky professions for your joints, as there is a lot of demanding movement and heavy work.

Complications of Osteoarthritis

Sufferers of osteoarthritis are subject to a number of potential complications associated with the condition. One problem is calcium deposits which could develop in your cartilage. This kind of calcification will show up in x-rays and this means the osteoarthritis is more likely to get progressively worse. These crystals can sometimes become loose and shake free from the knee, which can cause a painful swelling.

Another issue is the possibility of Bakers cysts forming in the back of the knee. These can form when the fluid around the knee becomes trapped in a sort of pouch attached to the joint lining. Cysts can be painful or tender and cause swelling and aches. Sometimes these cysts can burst, which releases fluid into the muscle causing pain. Cysts can be reduced by syringe treatment or they can be left alone.

Treatments for Osteoarthritis

There are various potential treatments for the condition of osteoarthritis of the knee. Although there is no actual cure for the problem, there are many ways to treat it. Painkillers can work to lessen the pain caused by osteoarthritis, although they will not help the root cause or repair the damage to the joint. It is best not to rely on painkillers and only use them now and then, for example when you are exercising.

Steroid injections are sometimes used as a treatment for osteoarthritis. These can be injected into the joint and can decrease pain for weeks at a time. Some more basic treatments that you can do at home include using warm or cold compresses, whichever feels the most soothing. Heat lamps are an option or a heat pad, while an ice pack might be preferable. You should wrap the pad or pack in a towel or other material to protect your skin from the direct heat or cold.

Some people try TENS machines for pain relief for osteoarthritis, however there is some debate over whether this actually works or not. Knee braces are another option to help with osteoarthritis and these can offer protection and stability for the joint. Finally, for very severe osteoarthritis of the knee, surgery might be the only solution. This can be a knee replacement operation which replaces your joint and can offer great relief from pain for around 15 years.

Living with Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common complaint and many people manage to live with the condition in relative comfort. This condition can affect the sleep quality of a sufferer, so it is important to deal with this by having hot baths before bed or a hot water bottle. Placing a pillow between your knees can also offer excellent support and be a way to get a good night’s sleep. If all else fails, try taking a painkiller before bed if the pain is severe.

People who suffer from osteoarthritis might feel stressed by the condition to the point where they feel depressed. If you feel very down it is important to speak to your family and your doctor. There are also local support groups you can go to where you can meet fellow sufferers and offer each other support and advice.

It can be useful to follow special exercises for knee pain if you suffer from osteoarthritis. This can make day to day life much easier. Some good strengthening exercise are step ups, which can be performed using the stairs, and knee squats which can be performed using the back of a chair for support - just make sure never to bend your knees further than 90 degrees.

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