Knee Osteoarthritis: It’s a Step by Step Process of Degeneration
Arthritis is such a common term that it is easy to misunderstand the various nuances of this degenerative condition. In reality, dozens of different arthritic conditions exist. These are typically situated into one of four broader categories. Osteoarthritis, which occurs when the cartilage and underlying bone of a joint or joints break down, is a condition that affects more than 20 million people. As such, it is important that awareness increase encompasses the stages of deterioration and management tips for each.
Most people do not recognize stage 1 osteoarthritis, and for a good reason: there is no indication of degeneration at this point. When the knee joint is just at the onset of breakdown, minimal bone spur growth is occurring. What we could say about this stage of osteoarthritis is that no one knows when they are in it, so everyone can benefit from healthy lifestyle habits that include weight management and strengthening exercises. Dietary choices should include fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as good fats like avocado, to support joint health.
Still mild, stage 2 osteoarthritis will manifest with minor physical symptoms. One may not describe these symptoms as painful, though, so the opportunity for management to slow deterioration may be missed. During stage 2, the knee joint remains intact, albeit with a little extra wear and tear, and a bit more bone spur growth. Management of stage 2 knee osteoarthritis typically involves the same proactive steps for stage 1: eat well and exercise regularly to maintain weight and build strong muscles in the legs. To lend support, a brace may be worn during times of physical activity.
Stage 3 knee osteoarthritis will manifest as stiffness after sitting for a prolonged period, as well as discomfort during physical exercise. The joint may express more intense pain when the knee is asked to perform certain movements, such as when you bend or kneel down. Running is also an activity that the weakened knee dislikes at this point. To manage comfort and range of motion, prescription pain medication may be necessary, as well as adherence to a limited variety of exercises, such as swimming or cycling.
If you’ve got stage 4 knee osteoarthritis, you will know it. Pain will occur more often than not. This is due to the chronic friction that occurs when bone rubs against bone. Very little, if any, cartilage remains to buffer the joint, and prescription medication may provide limited and temporary relief. At this stage of degeneration, knee replacement or osteotomy may be necessary.
Do you need more information on treatment for knee osteoarthritis? Call our Napa office at 707-258-2547.