Treating Knee Arthritis

October 17, 2018

Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint, a place where two bones in the body meet. The bones that make up the joint are lined with a thin layer of cartilage which allow the bones to glide smoothly past one another. The joint also has healthy fluid which ensures that the bones are lubricated and moving nicely.

There are many types of arthritis and some are attributed to aging, infection, autoimmune disorders, or trauma. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. When there is a degeneration of the thin cartilage which lines the bones, coupled with the loss of healthy fluid, the bones scrape past one another and can cause pain. When there is bone on bone contact, patients develop a restricted range of motion, pain, and swelling. These symptoms often indicate that it is time to see your doctor.

Your physician will take a complete medical history and perform an exam. He or she may order imaging tests like an X-ray or MRI depending on your specific symptoms. Treatment of arthritis often involves the following:

  • Oral or topical anti-inflammatories to reduce the swelling
  • Using ice on the affected area
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support the knee joint
  • Joint aspiration and injection, which involves removing the irritating excess fluid and injecting a steroid with a numbing medicine to ease the pain. Patients often feel immediate relief from a steroid injection which can last for 1-3 months and in some cases even longer

If the pain continues beyond that time frame, you may consider viscosupplementation. This is a procedure where the doctor will inject hyaluronic acid, which is the main component in healthy joints, back into the joint. This is usually done with a series of injections that plump up the joint space with healthy fluid, resulting in less bone on bone contact. Lastly, if all else fails, patients may need to see a surgeon to consider more permanent treatment options.