Here’s some good news: Age is just a number, and life begins at 50. The not-so-good news: Age is just a number in our heads, but our bodies keep track. Life does begin at 50, but so do wear-and-tear pains, like arthritis.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. We’re in the business of pain relief, so we have the fantastic news that pain can be easily managed.
What is arthritis?
By definition, arthritis is the inflammation of a joint. Joints feel swollen and tender when this occurs. According to CDC (Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention), 23 percent of all adults in the United States (over 54 million) have arthritis. Out of this number, 24 million find that they are limited in their activities and movement due to arthritis. More than a quarter of all adults with arthritis report of severe joint pain.
Not only is arthritis painful, it’s financially draining as well. It is the leading cause of work disability, costing medical care and lost earnings of about $303.5 billion.
The many types of arthritis
There are over 100 different kinds of arthritis, but among these there are five that are most common:
This is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs with natural “wear and tear” of the joints, so it ordinarily happens not just when the joints are overused, but with age as well.
It can also come from being obese, which puts extra stress on the joints. Osteoarthritis of the knee is the most common form of osteoarthritis, and this is what we will focus on.
This is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks parts of the body, including, and most especially, the joints.
Those who suffer from psoriatic arthritis have inflammation not just on the joints but on their skin as well (psoriasis).
This occurs when uric acid crystals build up over time in joints. This normally occurs on the lower limbs (big toe or other parts of the foot).
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects joints and other organs in the body.
Osteoarthritis of the knee
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the knee. This is known as the “wear-and-tear” condition of the knees, so it often occurs in people aged 50 and older. There are cases, though, when people experience osteoarthritis of the knee at a younger age. Some people see the onset of osteoarthritis symptoms occur after the age of 40. Women aged 55 and older are known to more likely develop osteoarthritis of the knee than men.
Those who are overweight or obese are more likely to have osteoarthritis of the knee. Bear in mind that for every pound (0.45 kilos) of weight you gain, it adds 3-4 lbs (1.3-1.8 kilos) of pressure on the knees.
Osteoarthritis of the knee affects the entire joint. This is because the joints lose the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones. This causes bone to grind directly on bone, so it’s not hard to imagine the excruciating pain that causes restrictive movement.
Diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the knee
If you feel that you are a candidate for osteoarthritis of the knee (symptoms, age group and weight), it’s recommended that you consult a physician. They will normally check the knees for tenderness and swelling. Your knee flexibility and motion may be even tested.
An X-ray might be advised by the physician. While cartilage does not show up on X-ray images, they will look out for the space between the bones in the joint. A narrow space will normally mean cartilage loss.
What does knee osteoarthritis feel like?
If you feel some (or all) of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from knee osteoarthritis:
- Sensation of warmth in the joint
- Feeling of stiffness in the knee, especially in the mornings when you wake up, or after a long period of rest
- Pain in the knee increases when you are mobile or active, and it will get a little better when you rest
- Creaking and crackling sounds are heard when you move your knees
- Difficulty in knee mobility, so you may feel difficulty using the stairs, kneeling, walking, etc
Pain relief and management for knee osteoarthritis
When we talk about pain relief for knee osteoarthritis, it means bringing mobility and flexibility back to the knee. Here are the top three ways that people use to manage knee osteoarthritis pain:
Ice your knee
Ice packs do a very good job in reducing swelling and inflammation which is cause by osteoarthritis of the knee. You can follow the RICE method until you feel the pain subside:
R – Rest your knee. Stop activities that cause pain in your knee and rest the affected knees.
I – Ice your affected knees. You can use normal ice packs, but for osteoarthritis of the knee, we suggest ice packs made especially for the knees. It’s important to have ice packs that are flexible when frozen so that they can fit around your knees comfortably, especially when they’re feeling tender and swollen. Ice your knee for 20 minutes every four hours.
C – Compression. Apply compression to your knees to prevent swelling. You can use elastic bandages for this, but this type of knee ice pack already comes with adjustable straps so you can compress your knees while icing them.
E – Elevate your knees when resting by setting your leg on a cushion or a chair. You don’t necessarily need to raise your knees above heart level, which is customary when you sustain a knee injury. It will just help if you have your knees elevated while icing and compressing your knee.
While the RICE method is normally applied when you sustain a knee injury, the same concept also applies for pain relief with knee osteoarthritis. You can do this anytime you feel the knee pain recurring.
Lose weight and exercise
Being overweight causes or aggravates osteoarthritis of the knee. By losing weight, you lessen the pressure and stress that is put on the knees. Exercise can help you lose weight, but more importantly, it will strengthen your muscles that support the knee joints. Engage in low-impact exercises that will help build muscle strength such as cycling and swimming. Other low-impact routines like Pilates or yoga will help stabilize your core, which overall will help with balance and weight distribution in your body.
Glucosamine is a popular supplement that relieves joint pain. Glucosamine, along with chondroitin, are natural compounds found in cartilage. According to the NIH (Natural Institutes of Health), evidence suggests that these supplements may help relieve osteoarthritis knee pain and stiffness.
They have estimated that around 6.5 million adults have used glucosamine for joint pain relief.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are considered safe with no serious side effects. Just be aware that they can interact if mixed with blood thinners.
Treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee
Currently, there is no direct cure for osteoarthritis, or osteoarthritis of the knee for that matter. We will get to the natural ways to relieve osteoarthritis of the knee pain, but to those have extreme excruciating pain despite trying natural pain management, the following methods are explored:
In certain cases, corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid is injected into the knee. Steroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that are quite powerful, and hyaluronic acid is found in joints. They work as a lubricating fluid, and injecting knees with it is a form of “lubrication” of the joints.
Knee replacement surgery
This option can be considered if you have severe knee pain that completely limits your everyday activities. When you still feel pain despite natural methods of relieving osteoarthritis knee pain, and if pain persists even when you are resting, it’s time to consider surgery. If your leg is already bowing in or out and pain killers offer no pain relief, we highly suggest you consult your physician to consider knee replacement surgery.
Are you currently experiencing osteoarthritis knee pain? Feel free to ask us anything regarding pain management. We’d love to hear from you!