Osteoarthritis (OA) in the knee is painful. Just ask anyone who has it. But not all knee pain is caused by OA, so how do you know if you have it and what are your options when it comes to dealing with it?

What is Osteoarthritis?

OA is commonly called “wear-and-tear” arthritis because of how it develops. As we grow older, the protective cartilage between our bones wear down. As the cartilage gets thinner, bone begins to rub on bone, and we start to feel pain. This is most likely to happen in our knees simply because of the weight and stress they absorb with every step we take.

Who Gets It?

Because it is a “wear-and-tear” type of arthritis, it is most likely to affect those over 50. However, anyone can get it. Those who are obese, overwork their joints, have a previous knee injury, or have poor posture are more prone to it. Also, women are more susceptible than men. Other causes include: age, heredity and illness involving prolonged inflammation.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the Knee

  • Pain increases with movement but gets better when resting
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning or after sitting for a while
  • Decrease in mobility that makes it difficult to get out of a chair or car
  • Cracking sound is heard when the knee moves

The Stages of Osteoarthritis of the Knee

There are 5 stages of knee OA. It begins with stage 0 and progresses through stage 4. Here is a look at what happens in each stage.

Stage 0 – shows no signs of wear and tear and the knee-joint functions without any pain or impairment.

Stage 1 – shows the beginning of a bone spur growth. A bone spur is a boney growth that develops where bones meet (at the joint). The cartilage is not damaged and there is usually little or no pain.

Stage 2 – is when pain first starts. There may be stiffness in the joint, tenderness when kneeling, or pain after a long walk or run. The bone spur has also grown, but there is still enough cartilage to cushion the joint.

Stage 3 – is classified as “moderate” OA. By this time the cartilage shows obvious signs of damage and the space between the bones begins to narrow. People with stage 3 OA will experience frequent pain while running, walking, kneeling and bending. They may also experience stiff joints after sitting for long periods of time, or when first waking up.

Stage 4 – is the final stage. Because the cartilage has been dramatically reduced, pain can be constant and is often severe. At this point a doctor is likely to recommend a total knee replacement, but are there other options?

What If I Don’t Want a Total Knee Replacement?

There are alternatives to knee replacement surgery. In fact, there are some very simple exercises you can do to help alleviate pain from OA. Let’s look at three:

  1. Quad set – Lay on your back with a rolled towel under your knee. While contracting your quad, press the knee into the towel and hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.

2. Straight Leg Raise – Lay on your back or sit with your legs out in front of you. Slowly lift your leg and put it back down. Repeat 10 times.

3. Long Arc Quad – Sit in a chair with your knees at a 90 degree angle. Lift your foot and straighten your knee without bending at the waist. Slowly put your foot back on the floor. Repeat 10 times.

Each of these exercises builds strength in the leg and stabilizes the quad and hip flexor muscles. This, in turn, helps to stabilize the knee and prevent it from buckling. These exercises should be performed on a comfortable surface. And while soreness is common, there should not be an increase in pain while performing them.

Do you have OA? Would you like to find out more about dealing with the pain while avoiding painful surgery? At Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab, we specialize in osteoarthritis of the knee. Feel free to give us a call at 570-208-2787, or email us at cawleyptfrank@gmail.com. You can also visit our website or YouTube channel for more helpful tips.