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10 Things Everyone Should Know about Knee Arthritis

A large part of our older generation suffers from arthritis, especially of the knee. This incurable condition can successfully be treated and its symptoms managed. For effective management of knee arthritis, you should keep in mind the following 10 k

Pain By Ariba Khaliq / Nov 26, 2014

Arthritis is a Common Problem

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of the joints. Pain, swelling and stiffness are its primary symptoms. People with osteoarthritis are in good company because millions of people struggle with it around the world; nine million in America alone. Knee arthritis is especially common among older adults. Though it cannot be cured, the pain and stiffness can be reduced with right treatment. This will help you stay active and enjoy life more. Knee arthritis can make it hard to carry out routine activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. It causes major loss to work time and a serious disability for many people. Here are 10 key things to know about knee arthritis.

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It is the “wear and tear” of the Knee

When the cartilage of the knee joint gradually erodes, knee arthritis occurs. Cartilage is a smooth, slippery substance that protects and cushions the bones as you bend and straighten your knee. When the knees don’t have the gliding and cushioning effect of the cartilage, the bones of the knee joint rub together and experiences a lot of friction. This doesn’t allow the knee to move easily; the knee becomes stiff, swollen, and painful.

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Symptoms Develop Gradually

Generally, the pain develops slowly over time, though sudden onset is also possible. Early symptoms of knee arthritis may be aching joints after physical activity or stiffness first thing in the morning. With time, symptoms may occur more frequently. It may make it harder for the patient to walk, climb stairs, and get in and out of chairs. Other than stiffness and swelling of the knee, there are other symptoms of knee osteoarthritis like flare ups during vigorous activity, rough motion of joints, the joint may creak, click, snap, or make a grinding noise.

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Your Whole Life can be Affected by Knee Arthritis

A mild form of knee arthritis is more common among people who suffer it, but it can become severe. When this happens, your daily tasks and your ability to take part in family and work activities become difficult. Not just physically, arthritis can affect a person mentally too. Living with this painful condition which is also disabling in many forms, can lead to chronic mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

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It Can’t be Cured but Can be Treated

There is no cure for arthritis but there are a number of treatments that may help relieve the pain and disability it can cause. As with other arthritic conditions, initial treatment of arthritis of the knee is nonsurgical. Your doctor may recommend a range of treatment options, such as weight loss, exercise, medication, alternative therapies.  If these don’t help, surgery is the best option. Home remedies like applying heat or ice, using pain-relieving ointments or creams, or wearing elastic bandages to provide support to the knee may provide some relief from pain.

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Losing Weight can Ease Knee Stress

Losing weight can reduce stress on the knee joint, resulting in less pain and increased function. If you're overweight, losing just 5 percent of what you currently weigh, can improve your knee arthritis symptoms.  With every pound you lose, you take 4 pounds of stress off your knees. It isn’t easy to shed pounds, but maintaining a healthy weight will go a long way towards keeping you active.

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Exercise is a Crucial Thing-to-do

There are certain specific exercises that can help enhance range of motion and flexibility, as well as help strengthen the muscles in your knees. Low-impact aerobic exercises, such as walking, swimming, water aerobics, and cycling, relieve arthritis pain and other symptoms. Stretching and strengthening your leg muscles helps, too. Add a little activity to your day at least five times a week and notice the difference it can make in your symptoms. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help develop an individualized exercise program that suits your needs.

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Medicines Help Fight Pain and Inflammation

Several types of drugs are useful in treating arthritis of the knee. Because people respond differently to medications, your doctor will work closely with you to determine the medications and dosages that are safe and effective for you. Over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and topical creams and sprays are common treatment options for knee arthritis and are usually the first choice of therapy. Acetaminophen is a simple, over-the-counter pain reliever that effectively reduces arthritis pain.

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Alternative Therapies can Also be Tried

Many alternative forms of therapy though unproven may be tried to find relief from arthritis pain. But you should practise them only under the surveillance of a qualified practitioner and keep your doctor informed of your decision. Acupuncture, massage therapy, and electrical stimulation of the nerves (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS) improve symptoms for some people.

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Self Care Helps

Your body signals you when it needs rest and wants you to slow down. When you feel your body is struggling, sit down. A good night's sleep and a healthy diet will help you deal better with your knee arthritis symptoms. When flare-ups occur, apply hot or cold packs or warm towels to your knee, or take a warm bath. Cold lessens inflammation, while heat boosts circulation and eases pain and stiffness.

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Surgical Options are Many

Your doctor may recommend surgery if your pain from arthritis causes disability and is not relieved with nonsurgical treatment. If you are prescribed a knee replacement surgery, the entire knee or part of the knee will be replaced with metal or plastic parts. This is a major surgical procedure can decrease pain and swelling and improve movement when the knee is much damaged.  There are other surgical procedures available which involve removing loose pieces of cartilage, smoothing of the knee's bony surfaces, and realigning the bones to reduce pain and disability.

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