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Effective Strategies for Managing Osteoarthritis in the Knee

Our knees are the workhorses of our bodies, propelling us through life's daily activities. But what happens when knee pain becomes a constant companion? 

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, can significantly impact knee function. However, the good news is that there are effective strategies to manage knee osteoarthritis and reclaim your active lifestyle.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects the cartilage, the smooth cushioning tissue between bones. Over time, this cartilage wears down, causing pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the knee joint. 

While knee osteoarthritis can strike anyone, it's more prevalent in individuals who are overweight or obese, have a family history of the condition, or have sustained previous knee injuries.

What are the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis?

If you experience any of the following symptoms in your knee, it's essential to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis:

  • Pain: This is the most common symptom, often described as a dull ache or stiffness, particularly after periods of inactivity or overuse.
  • Stiffness: The knee may feel stiff and tight, especially in the mornings or after sitting for long periods.
  • Reduced range of motion: Bending and straightening the knee may become progressively difficult.
  • Swelling: Inflammation can cause the knee joint to appear swollen.
  • Grating or popping sounds: These noises may be felt or heard during knee movement.

Non-medicinal strategies for knee osteoarthritis

Early diagnosis and proactive management are crucial for slowing the progression of osteoarthritis and improving your quality of life. 

While there's no cure for osteoarthritis, several effective strategies can help manage symptoms and maintain knee function.

Exercise

Regular exercise is a cornerstone of knee osteoarthritis management. Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or cycling strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint, improving stability and reducing stress on the joint itself.

Weight management

Excess weight puts significant strain on your knees. Shedding even a few pounds can significantly reduce pain and improve joint function. Consult a doctor or registered dietitian for a personalized weight loss plan.

Heat and cold therapy

Applying heat packs before exercise can help loosen stiff muscles, while cold therapy after activity can reduce pain and inflammation. Experiment to see which approach works best for you.

Assistive devices

Consider using supportive braces, canes, or shoe inserts to improve knee stability and reduce pain while walking or standing for extended periods.

Medications and treatment options for knee osteoarthritis

While non-medicinal strategies are a powerful foundation for managing knee osteoarthritis, medication and other treatment options can provide additional relief. 

Here's a breakdown of some common approaches:

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Medications like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help manage pain and inflammation. 

It's crucial to follow dosage instructions carefully and consult a doctor before taking these medications, especially if you have other health conditions.

Prescription medications

If over-the-counter medications aren't providing adequate relief, your doctor may prescribe stronger options:

  • Prescription NSAIDs: These are typically higher dosages than over-the-counter versions and may offer better pain control. However, the side effects are similar to OTC NSAIDs.
  • Duloxetine: Originally an antidepressant, this medication is also approved for chronic pain, including osteoarthritis pain. Consult with your doctor about potential side effects.

Cortisone injections

Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication injected directly into the knee joint. It can offer significant pain relief for several weeks, but these injections are not a long-term solution. 

Their use is typically limited due to potential side effects, such as joint weakness and an increased risk of infection.

Hyaluronic acid injections

Hyaluronic acid is a substance naturally found in joint fluid that acts as a lubricant and shock absorber. Hyaluronic acid injections can help improve lubrication and reduce pain. 

However, the effectiveness of HA injections varies and may require multiple injections for a sustained effect.

Physical therapy

A physical therapist can design a personalized exercise program tailored to strengthen your knee joint, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. This therapy can also help improve your balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls.

Surgery

Knee surgery is typically considered a last resort after other treatment options have been exhausted. Here are some common surgical techniques used to treat severe osteoarthritis in the knee.

  • Knee replacement or arthroplasty: During a knee replacement, the surgeon removes the damaged cartilage and bone from the knee joint and replaces them with artificial metal and plastic implants.
  • Knee osteotomy: An osteotomy involves surgically realigning the leg bone to shift the pressure away from the damaged area of the knee joint.

Orthopaedic Surgery Center of Panther Creek: Your Partner in Managing Knee Osteoarthritis

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating knee osteoarthritis. The best course of action depends on the severity of your symptoms, your overall health, and your individual preferences.

That’s why at the Orthopaedic Surgery Center of Panther Creek, our orthopedic specialists will work closely with you to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific condition and goals.

We are committed to providing exceptional care, state-of-the-art facilities, and a team of highly-skilled orthopedic surgeons dedicated to helping you regain your mobility and live an active life.

Contact the best Panther Creek orthopedics today at 919-582-3050 and get access to the highest quality of medical expertise. 

Experience the difference with UNC Orthopaedics at Panther Creek.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

outpatient orthopedic surgery cary
6715 McCrimmon Parkway
Suite 205 A 
Cary, NC 27519
Monday – Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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