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KNEE OSTEOARTHRITIS

WHAT IS KNEE OSTEOARTHRITIS?

 Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a very common chronic musculoskeletal condition which affects a number of Australian’s on a daily basis. Knee Osteoarthritis can be considered a degenerative condition (occurs via wear and tear), this condition occurs where the hyaline articular cartilage thins, develops cracks and can eventually wear away. This cartilage coats the ends of the bones inside the joints, therefore, acting as a smooth, friction-free surface to allow the joint to glide, while protecting and helping transmit the load to the underlying bone (subchondral bone). Therefore OA can result in a rough joint surface and reduce the cartilage’s ability to protect the subchondral bone, progressing into bone spurs forming in the joint, the subchondral bone can form cysts and the menisci which often develop degenerative tears. These issues can cause inflammation, pain and a range of other symptoms.

WHAT CAUSES KNEE OSTEOARTHRITIS?

UNDER KNEE OA

You may experience the following symptoms, these will depend on the main site of OA within the knee, the severity of the OA, the amount of strength and control a person has around their knee, as well as any other conditions present within the knee:

  • Age – Most common for people over the age of 45.
  • Biomechanics
  • Family history of knee OA – this condition may be inherited
  • Gender – Before the age of 50, men have slightly higher rates of knee OA and after the age of 50, the rates are higher in women.
  • Heavily physical occupations
  • Muscle weakness
  • Natural leg posture – different leg positions may cause heavy loads, therefore, causing early wear and tear to the cartilage. 
  • Past history of trauma or surgery to the knee – You may develop Knee OA if you have had an incident that damages the cartilage of your knee
  • Weight – Being overweight can increase your risk of Knee OA as the knee is bearing heavy loads from body weight.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE KNEE OSTEOARTHRITIS?

You may have Knee OA, you may experience the following symptoms, these will depend on the main site of OA within the knee, the severity of the OA, the amount of strength and control a person has around their knee, as well as any other conditions present within the knee:

  • a feeling of instability or giving way in the knee
  • altered joint shape and size
  • altered leg posture (eg: ‘knock knees’ or ‘bow legs’)
  • clicking, clunking, crunching or catching within the joint
  • difficulty with activities such as stair climbing and stair descending
  • the feeling of weakness in the leg muscles, especially the quadriceps (front of thigh).
  • joint swelling
  • pain with prolonged periods of walking or standing
  • reduced joint flexibility (bending or straightening)
  • stiffness in the morning or after prolonged sitting

It is common that Knee OA symptoms will fluctuate in which symptoms may get better or worse, depending on activity.  Imaging techniques such as X-ray and MRI may be used to diagnose knee OA. Treatment is dictated usually by the individual person’s symptoms rather than their scans as scans may not always indicate what symptoms you are experiencing.

HOW CAN AN EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST HELP?

  • education
  • exercise program
  • movement modification
  • prehabilition/ rehabilition
  • weightloss