Arthritis of the Knee

Enrique A. Wulff, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology
Neurology Consultant for Carmen Care Advanced Laser Therapy, Florida

There are three basic types of arthritis that may affect the knee joint: Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of knee arthritis. OA is usually a slowly progressive degenerative disease in which the joint cartilage gradually wears away. It most often affects middle-aged and older people. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory type of arthritis that can destroy the joint cartilage. RA can occur at any age. RA generally affects both knees. Post-traumatic Arthritis: Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the knee. This type of arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis and may develop years after a fracture, ligament injury, or meniscus tear.

If you have osteoarthritis of the knee, you can take advantage of a wide range of treatment options. The effectiveness of different treatments varies from person to person. The purpose of treatment is to reduce pain, increase function and generally reduce your symptoms. Patient satisfaction is a fundamental goal in treating osteoarthritis of the knee.

In its early stages, arthritis of the knee is helped by lifestyle modifications and exercise. Lifestyle modifications can include losing weight, switching from running or jumping exercises to swimming or cycling, and minimizing activities that aggravate the condition, such as climbing stairs. Many, but not all, people with osteoarthritis of the knee are overweight. Simple weight loss can reduce stress on weight bearing joints, such as the knee. Losing weight can result in reduced pain and increased function, particularly in walking.

Exercise can help increase range of motion and flexibility as well as help strengthen the muscles in the leg. Regular exercise can decrease stiffness and strengthen the muscles that support your knee. Patients who have patellofemoral arthritis should try to avoid activities that put stress on the front of the knee, such as squatting. If you regularly do high-impact exercise, switching to low-impact activities will put less stress on your knee. Walking and swimming are good low-impact options.