Don’t let knee arthritis take hold of your life

It is believed that India is facing knee arthritis epidemic as it is expected to emerge as the fourth most common cause of physical disability in the country soon.

It is also said that 1 in 6 Indians suffer from arthritis -- an inflammation of the joints causing pain and stiffness that worsen with age. And to add to it a report stated that more than 15 crore Indians suffer from knee problems, out of which about 4 crore patients need knee replacement.

These are not just findings of some study but indicate how the epidemic is spreading in India and needs our attention.

Understanding the arthritis story

In not so medical terms, arthritis can be explained as inflammation of one or more of your joints. It leads to swelling, pain and stiffness. Any joint in the body may be affected by the disease, but it is particularly common in the knee. The illness leads to difficulty in carrying out the everyday activities like walking or climbing stairs. It leads to a major cause of lost work time and sometimes lead to serious disability.

There are more than 100 types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Commonly termed as wear-and-tear arthritis or degenerative joint disease, Osteoarthritis can be defined as a progressive condition that slowly wears away joint cartilage. Since the protective cartilage is worn off, the bone is exposed making the knee more vulnerable and leads to swelling leading to pain. It mostly occurs after middle age.

It is important to note that knee osteoarthritis can also be inherited as some genetic mutations can make a person more prone to develop osteoarthritis of the knee.

If we talk about rheumatoid arthritis, it is an inflammatory condition that can strike at any age. It is an auto-immune condition, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints. The attack leaves the joints feeling sore and inflamed, and can even lead to damage of the surrounding cartilage. ts.  According to a study, the disease affects 1-1.5 percent of the population worldwide, predominantly women. The symptoms include joint pain, inflammation, and restricted movement.

Then there is post-traumatic arthritis which develops following an injury to the knee. It can occur years after a torn meniscus, ligament injury, or knee fracture. Several studies point that one’s risk of arthritis increases with each year passing year.

What causes knee arthritis?

There are many reasons which contribute in developing this disease. Some of the factors are:

  • Growing age: The ability of cartilage to heal itself decreases as the person gets older, leading to lot of joint issues.
  • Obesity: Increase in weight directly puts pressure on all the joints, especially the knees. Every kilogram of weight you gain,it adds 3 to 4 kilogram of extra weight on your knees.
  • It’s all in the family: The issue is directly linked to the family history of the condition, which includes genetic mutations that might make a person more likely to develop the disease.
  • Stress injuries: If your job includes tasks that place repetitive stress on knee joint, then it will eventually develop arthritis. This stands true for people who are involved in occupations that include a lot of physical activity like kneeling, squatting, or lifting heavy weights.
  • Past joint injuries. Injuries which you got while playing some sports or from an accident, may lead to arthritis in the future. An injury that occurred many years ago and you thought healed can also increase your risk of getting knee arthritis.

How do you spot the disease?

Your body gives you several indications about what’s going inside the body. But most of the time, we tend to ignore the alarm bells. You can be careful and catch the symptoms early on.

The first thing to take note is that the knee joint affected by arthritis will be inflamed and painful. In most of the cases, pain develops gradually over time, however, symptoms may suddenly worsen.

There are other symptoms, as well:

  • There will be morning stiffness which will last for at least one hour.
  • Look for swelling in the knee area.
  • There will be difficulty in moving the knee.
  • You will feel weak by the knee and it will be painful.
  • Your knee will feel unstable.
  • There will be difficulty in walking and running.
  • There will be pain in the knee area with activities, limiting the range of motion.
  • There will tenderness of the knee.
  • Loose fragments of cartilage and other tissue can interfere with the smooth motion of joints. The knee may lock during movement.
  • There will be a lingering feeling that the knee may "give out".
  • In some cases, there may be deformity of the joint.

One needs to evaluate the pain carefully as it will decide the future course of medical attention. According to Miho Tanaka, MD, associate professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, one should watch out for blood clots, numbness and weakness in the leg, and fevers and redness associated with swelling. If there are blood clots, one should get them evaluated.

Finding the right diagnose

It is important to get to the root of the cause to find the right diagnose. For this, doctors will assess the condition of knee arthritis with a thorough physical examination and lab testing.

The first step is to let the doctor review your medical history. Next, the medical expert will examine your knee by looking at it, touching it, and asking the person to walk on it. They will look for signs of arthritis and understand the progress of the illness. There will be imaging studies to look for changes in the knee joint. It could include an X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan -- the last two scan options help a doctor identify damage to the soft tissues surrounding the knee bones.

After getting to the root of the problem, the doctor will start your treatment.

  • For many, the first step towards solving the issue is by losing weight. Obese people can reduce the knee pain by losing weight. According to a report-- published in journal Arthritis Care & Research, the greater the weight loss, the better the participants responded to pain, function, walking distance of 6 minutes and knee joint compression.
  • Also, regular exercise of moderate level is important since it helps in strengthening of joints and can decrease risk of knee arthritis.
  • Making the right lifestyle changes: If you tweak your life a bit, you can protect your knee joint and slow down the progress of arthritis. You can also minimise activities that aggravate the condition, such as climbing stairs.
  • Going for physical therapy. Some exercises help increase range of motion and flexibility, as well as help strengthen the muscles in your leg. Consult your doctor before exercising.
  • Buying assistive devices: This includes cane, wearing shock-absorbing shoes or inserts, or wearing a brace or knee sleeve.
  • Popping the pill: There are various types of drugs which are useful in treating arthritis of the knee. Everyone responds differently to medications, and that is the reason why you need to consult with your doctor first.

Going for laser treatment to heal knee arthritis

Several studies suggest that laser therapy especially cold laser therapy are low-intensity laser light therapy (LLLT), and can alleviate pain, including knee pain. How is it done?

As the name suggests, cold laser therapy is soft laser therapy as offered at Dr Cure and Care. It is all about exposing tissues to low levels of red and near-infrared light. The levels are low in comparison to other laser therapies that produce heat. Medical experts use lasers of different wavelengths to treat specific conditions. The laser goes right to your tissue through your skin, triggering a physiological reaction which reduces inflammation, improve circulation as a result starts the healing process.  

Apart from improving circulation, supporting tissue health and reducing inflammation, the therapy also encourage the growth of new and healthy tissue.

If we talk about how long the whole process is, then it depends on your condition. It mostly takes more than a single sitting, but the number of sitting can be determined depending on the damage of your knee.

So, if you feel your knees are acting up, then don’t take it lightly and take an expert advice today.