The bones in your knee have a slick protective covering called “cartilage” on the joint surfaces that touch each other. This cartilage serves as a friction reducer and shock absorber, thereby helping to extend the life of your joints. “Arthritis” means that your cartilage has begun to thin or crack and may eventually wear away, leading to a painful “bone on bone” situation.
Knee arthritis is very common, affecting more than 1/3 of adults over age 65. People who are overweight or have a history of knee injury or surgery are more likely to develop arthritis. Jobs and activities that require repetitive squatting, kneeling, pivoting or stair climbing may cause increased wear. Contrary to popular opinion, runners have no increased risk of developing knee arthritis. Women are two to three times more likely to develop knee arthritis as compared to men.
The pain of knee arthritis is often described as a “deep ache” that is aggravated by activity and relieved by rest. You probably notice morning stiffness that goes away after a short period of activity, but returns after sitting for long periods of time. Some patients have difficulty squatting, bending and walking stairs. You may notice that your knees pop and crack. Eventually, knee arthritis can cause you to walk slower, lose your balance and even fall more often. Many patients notice that their symptoms increase with weather changes.
Although there is no cure for the irreversible wearing associated with arthritis, there is help for your symptoms. Performing your home exercises is very important. The way that your knee is aligned (and wears) is largely based upon how your hip and foot function, so many of your home exercises will target those regions. Our office may prescribe arch supports or orthotics, since people with flat feet are almost twice as likely to suffer from knee arthritis.
Overweight patients should begin or increase low-impact aerobic exercises like walking, stationary cycling, elliptical exercising, water walking or swimming. Be sure to take frequent breaks from prolonged sitting and avoid overly painful activities.