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Research suggests that whilst we are all susceptible to experiencing osteoarthritis of the knee there are a number of osteoarthritis causes and factors which can increase the likelihood of the condition appearing. These factors include those outlined below.
Previous injury to the knee
Once you injure yourself, regardless of which joint or muscle, there is an inherent weakness which increases the chances of subsequent injury again in the future. Due to this weakness, effective rehabilitation is key along with importance placed on rebuilding strength in the affected muscle or joint. this will minimise the risk of further injury in the future.
When considering the knee joint it is believed that those who have suffered ligament damage, specifically Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries, are far more common to experience OA due to the nature of the injury.
Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect the bones within the body and stabilise the joints. The ACL is one of four ligaments within the knee joint and is located at the front with the main purpose of preventing your knee from moving forward beyond your tibia (shin bone). It is the ACL that allows you to walk, run and jump. Without this ligament, your stability can be compromised.
Damage to the ACL will vary depending on the injury, but in grade 3 ruptures and tears, surgery is often required to either repair or replace the ligament. Surgery is followed by a period of intensive physiotherapy to rebuild strength in the knee once again. Following this type of injury you can expect to be out of action from sport for around nine months.
Aside from pre-existing injuries, there are certain conditions which can increase the likelihood of the condition appearing and these include:
Any condition which has an impact on a joint, and its overall mobility, can be a major contributor in the onset of knee osteoarthritis.
Often referred to as ‘wear and tear’.
As you get older your muscles will become weaker, putting additional pressure on the joints. When looking at the knee joint, a lifetime of being active can begin to wear down the cartilage within the joint, this is the root cause of the condition.
Whilst there is no way of pausing time or preventing the condition, it does highlight the importance of looking after your body proactively by eating correctly and staying fit and healthy to help reduce the risk when you do get older.
Genetic factors / family history
As with most conditions, your genetics play a huge part and knee osteoarthritis is no different.
Scientists are yet to identify a specific gene as being the root cause of the condition and instead believe that a number of smaller genetic factors may be the source of the issue. Research continues in this area, however it is unlikely that a genetic test will be developed in the near future.
The knee is a crucial joint and is responsible for taking the entire weight of your body. The heavier you are the more force is transmitted through your body (and your knees) when active. If you also consider high impact sports, such as running, then this force is amplified. The more force applied through the joint the greater the strain which can increase the rate of the cartilage degradation, resulting in further knee pain.
You should look to stick to the NHS guidelines on your healthy weight which in turn will reduce the strain, on not only your joints but your body as a whole, promoting a healthy lifestyle.
The latest set of research does now suggest that it is not necessarily the extra weight being carried which is the root cause but instead the inflammatory response (cytokines) that are expressed by excess fat tissue.
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