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Knee Osteoarthritis: Everything You Should Know

Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of arthritis, can occur in any joint in the body. More than 10 million Americans have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee, making it the most common form of OA in the U.S. If you suspect you have knee osteoarthritis, read our comprehensive guide about the causes, symptoms and treatment options.

What is osteoarthritis?

OA of the knee is characterized by a gradual degeneration of joint cartilage in the knee. Healthy cartilage serves the important functions of enabling smooth movement while providing a protective cushion between bones. Without this protective layer, bones will experience undue wear and tear. Some of the most common causes of this condition include:

  • A traumatic knee injury
  • Repetitive strain on the knee
  • Genetics
  • Obesity

As osteoarthritis of the knee progresses, protective cartilage wears down and a host of issues including bone spurs and excess fluid can result. Pain and stiffness develop as a result of the changes that take place in the bones and joints with osteoarthritis.

What are the symptoms?

Knee osteoarthritis typically develops gradually over time and may include any of the following symptoms:

  • Localized pain (during or after activity)
  • Stiffness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Swelling

How is it treated?

Though there is currently not a cure for OA, medical professionals may advise a range of treatment options for alleviating the symptoms of OA. Early diagnosis and treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee is beneficial. If you have or suspect you have OA of the knee, consult your healthcare professional to determine the best plan of action for your situation.

If you determine you do have OA, it is advised to work with a medical care provider to determine the appropriate treatment plan for your situation. Your medical care provider may advise one or more of the following actions for alleviating the symptoms of OA:

  • Exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Weight management
  • Support brace or cane
  • Surgery in extreme cases

Additional treatments include medications that can help relieve pain such as acetaminophen. Additionally, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are helpful for reducing swelling and discomfort. To prevent the need for surgery, an appropriate knee support may be necessary. Here is a comprehensive list of the different kinds of knee support accessories that could alleviate OA progression.

Knee Braces

Aside from medications, there are a variety of knee braces capable of relieving the symptoms commonly associated with knee osteoarthritis. For example, a hinged knee brace works to mechanically unload the compartment of the knee which has the “bone on bone” arthritis.

Knee Sleeves

Single-piece knee sleeves are characteristically made with neoprene and are the simplest type of knee brace available. This particular type of brace is slipped over the affected knee and provides warmth, compression and additional support. These braces are an excellent choice for mild to moderate osteoarthritis pain and may be purchased over the counter at most drug stores.

Unloader Braces

An unloader brace is a semi-rigid knee brace constructed from plastic. These braces feature metal struts located on either side of the leg which limits lateral knee movement and provides increased stability. Unloader braces are best suited for individuals suffering from severe osteoarthritis pain and discomfort. These braces are also typically custom fit for the wearer and may be ordered from an orthotics store.

Whether purchasing a simple knee sleeve or an unloader brace, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider prior to using any orthotic device. Additionally. this information is not intended to supplement or replace advice from a medical professional or to diagnose or treat any condition. Please consult a professional to ensure your best OA treatment plan.