Knee Osteoarthritis: Here Are the Facts
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic, degenerative disease that affects 1 in 11 Australians, where 60% of its sufferers are females. Knee OA is deemed one of the most common forms of OA and is the most prevalent condition that leads to hip or knee replacements (AIHW, 2019).
Those with knee OA will frequently experience the following symptoms:
Pain with movements
Stiffness, particularly in the morning
Tenderness when you press the areas surrounding the knee
Crackling, or grating sounds during certain weight bearing activities
Swelling in and around the knee joint
Not only is physical function impacted, but 1 in 5 Australians with OA experience high or very high psychological distress due to their pain, physical limitations, quality of life and even poor treatment outcomes.
There are currently no known cures for osteoarthritis but there are ways we can help manage the symptoms. The first line of treatment should be a combination of supervised exercise, patient education and lifestyle changes, followed by supplementary treatments if there are insufficient changes in symptoms.
One of the most commonly overlooked, but highly crucial treatment options for any bodily injuries or dysfunctions, is patient education. Understanding what your signs and symptoms mean, will help you process why and what is actually happening inside your knee, without having to be bombarded by false explanations on the internet. Pain education is a form of treatment where a person's unhelpful beliefs are rationalised and minimised, before those beliefs limit the recovery process.
If you are ever worried about why you are experiencing and ailments, ask a trusted health professional to guide you through what your pain means.
Due to the function and location of the knee joint, the more forces exerted onto it, the more the joint and surrounding muscles have to work to help support it. As such, those with BMI >25, should work on losing weight to minimise the impact of body weight onto the joint. Even a 5% decrease in weight has been shown to significantly improve symptoms.
Lastly, a regular exercise regime should be individualised and tailored to the patient's needs and deficits. Skou & Roos (2019) have found that a minimum of 12 supervised sessions, with 2 sessions a week, are needed to initially gain clinical benefits.
Exercises can include strengthening and stretching of the following muscles:
Quadriceps (Resisted Leg Extension):
In sitting, hook a resistance band between your ankle and the foot of your chair. Making sure that you start with your knees bent 90 degrees, slowly straighten your leg until it is in line with your hip. This should be a slow and controlled movement. Hold for 5 seconds and relax your leg.
Hamstrings (Prone Eccentric Hamstring Curl):
Laying on your stomach, start with your knees straight on the floor. Bring your foot towards your buttock, and slowly bring your foot back to the starting position. The slower you go with this movement, the harder it is.
Gluteals (Clam Shells):
Lying on your side, bend both your knees as if they are stacked together. Keeping your ankles together, lift your knee towards the ceiling as high as you can without rolling your hip back. You can also put your hand on the side of your hip to feel the muscle activation and ensure your hip remains still throughout this exercise.
We understand how pain can affect you and the devastating impact it can have on your life. Together, let's better manage your symptoms, improve your functions and get you back to activities you love. Don't let pain stop you from going on holidays, spending time with your family, enjoying a walk down by the beach or get a good nights sleep.
As always, the above information are just treatment guidelines based on the current best-practice evidence on osteoarthritis of the knee joint. If symptoms persist or are particularly worrying, see your trusted health professional, or visit us at Physio Physique -- where we are here to help.