Arthritis is caused by an inflammation of the joints. Patients who suffer from arthritis struggle with swelling, pain, and stiffness in the affected joints. Any joint can be affected. However, the knee is the most common area. Knee arthritis can hinder almost all everyday activities and make it difficult to perform simple tasks. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common types of arthritis. There is no cure for arthritis, but several treatments make it easier to live with the condition.
The knee is known as the largest, strongest and most powerful joint in the body. The knee lies where the femur, tibia, and patella connect. The end of each bone is covered with articular cartilage that works to protect and cushion the bones. The meniscus also lies between the thighbone and shinbone as a shock absorber. They help keep the joint stable and provide a cushion. The synovial membrane surrounds the knee joint and releases fluid that lubricates the cartilage to reduce friction.
Osteoarthritis v. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Different forms of arthritis uniquely impact the joints.
Osteoarthritis is the most popular form of arthritis in the knee. It develops over time and most often affects people 50 and older. The cartilage in the knee joint degenerates over time and bone begins to rub together. The condition develops slowly, and pain increases over time.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects multiple joints in the body. Typically, both joints on each side of the body are affected. In the knees, rheumatoid arthritis causes the synovial membrane to swell. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an attack from the immune system to the tissue. The tissue is damaged, and bones soften.
Arthritis in the knee joint develops over time. Symptoms include:
- Pain, swelling, stiffness after waking up or sitting for an extended period
- Difficulty bending and straightening the knee
- Locking of the knee
- Creaking, clicking, or snapping during movement
- Increased joint pain during rainy weather
There is no cure for arthritis, but there are many pain reducing treatments available for patients. Several types of drugs, over the counter and prescription, improve pain and mobility. Specific physical therapy exercises are also helpful for increasing range of motion and flexibility. Devices, like canes or shock absorbing shoes, assist with stability, function, and pain. Doctors may recommend surgery if the pain from arthritis causes disability. However, in most cases, non-surgical treatment is most helpful.