It is difficult to process the fact that many are suffering from knee joint pain. Especially these days, as we appear to be much more well-informed about physical fitness than people in the last few decades. In fact, people live very different lifestyles with better diets and more activity than people in the mainstream may have in, say, the 80s or even the 90s. This might be why some tend to be caught off guard by particular joint aches and pains they experience, because of the assumption that the cleaner or better way of living we espouse should more or less do away with the possibility of such random pains.
Take knee joint pain, for example – many of us underestimate both the importance and complexity of the support system we have going on down there. At least, we do so until the knee starts to hurt. Then we become all too aware of what we’re not able to do because of knee pain – our mobility and balance are affected, and we start to wonder where this problem came from. While different cases may yield different answers once they’re examined, many of us tend to overlook one important possibility: the knee joint pain might be caused by osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis: The Most Common Form of Arthritis and Knee Joint Pain
So what is osteoarthritis? It is the most common form of arthritis, which affects millions worldwide. Its main manifestation is the wearing down of cartilage over time; the cumulative loss of cartilage at the ends of your bones is the main source of pain as the friction between bones grows. Cartilage is more important to joints than we may recognize, as the soft and resilient material cushions the movement between bones at the joints, the friction of which would otherwise be grinding and painful enough to cause us to lose mobility altogether. As such, knee joint damage that results in cartilage being stripped away or lost is a significant problem indeed.
Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the joints in the spine, hands, hips and knees. Once its onset has begun, osteoarthritis typically gets more and more pronounced. The symptoms include joint pain in the joints during movement, a grating sensation (or even sound) in the affected joint, stiffness of the joint and lack of flexibility, and possibly even bone spurs that may form around the affected joint.
Your Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain:
- Age. We become more susceptible to osteoarthritis as we age, and those at advanced ages are at greater risk.
- Sex. It is not clearly understood just why yet, but women are more at risk than men when it comes to osteoarthritis.
- Obesity. Carrying a lot of extra weight commonly puts a lot of pressure on joints, resulting in the cartilage being steadily worn down through long periods of supporting that weight. Fat tissue itself also produces proteins that can lead to joint inflammation.
- Genetics. Sometimes people are genetically predisposed to suffer osteoarthritis, while others are born with malformed joints or even deformed cartilage.
- Other diseases. Diabetes and other rheumatic diseases like gout can raise one’s risk of osteoarthritis.
- Joint injuries. Should you suffer an accident or a sports injury that affects a joint, it can raise the risk of eventual osteoarthritis.
Immediate Checkup Needed
Osteoarthritis is potentially quite troublesome if left unchecked, as its degenerative nature means it worsens over time. People are typically unable to actually leave it untended for long before the pain becomes unbearable with severe joint pain, but by then the damage is done.
How to Deal with Osteoarthritis
There are a variety of ways of dealing with osteoarthritis: one is to develop some changes in one’s lifestyle.
- Exercise. One way to deal with osteoarthritis is to strengthen the muscles around the damaged knee joint and thus make the joint more stable. Exercise also helps build up your endurance, and a regularly done routine should be helpful.
- Weight loss. Dropping some pounds could lead to a lot of benefits, especially if it’s your lower limb joints affected by osteoarthritis. Even a small amount of weight lost could lead to a great reduction in pressure over time, and in turn reduced pain.
- Use of assistive devices. Some cases are best dealt with using assistive devices that can help take some of the pressure off the affected limb. For knee pain sufferers, a cane can take some of your weight as you walk, and can be particularly useful when it comes to climbing stairs – one never realizes how important the weight and balance shifting involved actually is. Should the osteoarthritis affect your fingers, some grabbing or gripping devices can be very helpful, for example in the kitchen.
Alternative medicine is another way to help deal with osteoarthritis and severe joint pain. Be sure to run these by your doctor, however, just to be on the safe side.
- Acupuncture. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be used effectively to relieve pain, and this has also been seen to be true for people suffering from knee osteoarthritis. There are some risks, like infection and bruising where the needles are inserted into the skin, so seek out a reputable acupuncturist.
- Tai chi and yoga. In addition to the exercise mentioned above, tai chi and yoga are useful for developing flexibility. As examples of movement therapy, they can also help reduce stress and relieve pain. You may wish to avoid moves that cause pain, but with the help of a good therapist and instructor you should be able to find something that works for you.
- Supplements. Taking glucosamine and chondroitin can be beneficial for people with osteoarthritis, although it should be noted that studies’ findings aren’t consistent on that. Run these by your doctor so you can get them cleared – don’t take glucosamine if you have a shellfish allergy.
- Support. Consider the benefits of knee joint pain or supportive braces. They help with blood flow, and copper, in-particular, is known to possess anti-inflammatory properties.