Arthritis of The Knees

Dr. Brett Young

Tips for Healthy Knees

Knee pain may be the most common complaint heard by orthopedic doctors and, generally, arthritis is the cause. Pain, swelling, grinding, catching and stiffness are the most common signs of arthritis of the knee.

Three types of arthritis affect the knee:
  • 1. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of knee arthritis. It is a degenerative form of arthritis caused by the “wear and tear” of normal living, specifically the loss of the smooth, gliding cartilage of the knee resulting in bone rubbing on bone.
  • 2. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can develop in anyone at any age. It may attack several joints in the body at one time causing inflammation, damaging normal tissue and softening the bone.
  • 3. Post-traumatic arthritis typically develops after a significant injury to the knee, though it may not surface until years after the trauma.
A good plan of action to maintain knee health is to perform strengthening exercises. Water aerobics, strength training, yoga and tai chi may help strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, thereby reduce pain. If you’re overweight, losing weight can also reduce stress on the knee.

The knee is the largest joint in our body. It is made up of bone, cartilage, ligaments and tendons that all work together to provide our range of motion. When knee pain or loss of motion begins to affect one’s ability to perform common daily tasks or enjoy hobbies – and conservative treatments such as exercising, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin or resting the knee don’t relieve the pain – it’s time to visit your doctor.

Your primary care provider or orthopedic doctor will likely recommend some lifestyle changes, such as switching from high impact activities (jogging, tennis) to lower impact sports (swimming or cycling). Physical therapy is another option; your doctor or therapist may develop an exercise program to treat your specific issues. Beyond that, your provider may suggest using a cane or other walking aids (knee brace) for a while to relieve stress on the knee or recommend injections of various drugs to reduce inflammation.

If these more conservative measures don’t reduce one’s knee pain to a tolerable level, surgical options may be considered. Those include arthroscopy, cartilage grafting, osteotomy (the thigh or shin bone may be resurfaced to relieve pressure) or partial or total knee replacement.

The strength of our knees is a key factor in our ability to have a good range of movement that allows us to enjoy our hobbies, participate in sports, and carry out our daily tasks. We all would be wise to treat our knees respectfully, exercise regularly to maintain the strength of the muscles surrounding our knees and maintain a healthy weight. Our ability to lead an active life, especially in our older years, is directly related to the health of our knees.

Dr. Brett Young is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon practicing with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care-New London and ThedaCare Medical Center-New London.

About ThedaCare
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose, as well as 31 clinics in nine counties and the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.