What is knee arthritis?

Most knee arthritis is caused by osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint disease which involves progressive wearing away of cartilage in a joint. This results in pain and impaired movement of the knee joint.

OA can affect one or both sides of the knee joint however it usually occurs on the inner side of the knee. Often the symptoms of knee arthritis develop slowly over a number of years.

What does knee arthritis feel like?

There is usually a deep aching pain in the knee joint, particularly with movement. The joint may feel stiff after not moving the knee for some time (eg, in the morning upon waking). When arthritis is present, the knee joint is inflamed and there may be a crunching or grinding sound when moving the knee joint.

What causes knee arthritis?

Possible causes of ankle arthritis include:

  • Previous injury or trauma to the knee can cause damage to the cartilage and increase the chance of OA developing.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the knee joint, causing inflammation and cartilage damage.
  • There is some evidence to suggest that genetics plays a part in the development of arthritis, so people with a family history of arthritis may be more prone to developing this condition.
  • Being overweight puts increased pressure on the knee joints which can increase risk of developing arthritis and joint damage.

How is knee arthritis treated?

Treatment to manage the symptoms of knee arthritis can include avoiding high impact activities, performing strengthening exercises and taking anti-inflammatory medication. In addition, research has shown that custom foot orthotics can be helpful in reducing pain associated with knee arthritis.

Custom foot orthotics are most effective in reducing pain in cases of arthritis affecting the inner (medial) aspect of the knee. With this condition, the podiatrist adds wedges to the orthotics which reduce pressure and pain on the inner side of the knee. These orthotics are very specialised, and standard foot orthotics can make knee pain worse. Adjustments are often necessary and it is important that whoever makes your orthotics is a specialist in biomechanics and orthotic therapy.

In severe cases of knee arthritis, surgical options may need to be considered.

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