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Archive for the ‘About Knee Osteoarthritis’ Category

Ice Pack Wrap

December 14, 2016


Ice packs are an effective treatment option for knee osteoarthritis for several reasons.  Ice will decrease swelling in the knee.  Also, cold therapy will slow the release of chemicals within the body that cause pain and inflammation.  Cold also reduces that ability of nerve endings to conduct pain impulses.  Ice will also limit the ability of muscles to reduce spasms.

An ice pack wrap is an effective means of delivering cold therapy to an arthritic knee.

Joint Pain

                        Joint Pain

Osteoarthritis of the knee is the mechanical breakdown of knee cartilage.  Where rheumatoid arthritis is the chemical breakdown of cartilage, osteoarthritis is damage caused by long-term wear and tear.

Years of use causes the cartilage in the knee joint to wear away. As the cartilage wears away, the joint space narrows, and eventually the bones begin to rub together.  That’s what causes the knee pain.

Stretching, knee braces, weight loss, and strengthening the muscles around the knee are all effective, conservative treatment options for reducing knee pain associated with knee osteoarthritis.




Walking is Good Exercise

                    Walking is Good Exercise


It may seem counterintuitive.  If your knee hurts as a result of osteoarthritis, walking may help your knee feel better.  My grandmother used to tell me, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.  I still believe her, more so now that whenever I wake up something hurts.

Walking helps stretch your muscles, lubricate your knee joint, and helps you lose weight.  All three of these benefits help control knee pain.  Tight muscles put undue stress on your knee joint.  Keeping the fluids moving in and out of your knee helps keep your anatomy healthy, and losing weight decreases the pressure on your knee joint.

So don’t give up.  One step at a time.  Make yourself better.


Seated Leg Extension

To rest the arthritic knee or not to rest, that is the question.  Knee pain can be tricky to diagnose.  The knee joint slides, glides, and rotates.  There are ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage….there’s a lot that can go wrong.  But for people with chronic knee osteoarthritis, they can usually tell if the knee pain is their “old friend” visiting or some new injury causing them to limp, shuffle, and creak as they walk.

If the knee pain is due to osteoarthritis, then don’t rest too much.  A healthy knee joint requires movement.  Bending the knee keeps the joint lubricated, and the surrounding musculature stretched and strong.  Resting is important for an acute injury, but for knee OA a low-impact exercise routine is important.

Inactivity can make knee pain worse because muscles become weak.  People with Knee OA need an exercise program that is safe for their knees.  And the exercise program needs to be consistent – a routine.  Your body needs to be used to moving.

Swimming, biking, and walking are great low-impact exercises that will get you sweating without beating on your knees.  Strengthen the muscles around your knee, keep them flexible, and your knee pain won’t be so bad.

Knee pain from high impact activities like running is a common symptom of osteoarthritis.

There are many symptoms which can help your doctor diagnose osteoarthritis.  Osteoarthritis of the knee is typically observed after patients complain of knee pain, joint stiffness, joint swelling, and pain with exercise or high activities.  Early detection is very important because osteoarthritis includes degeneration of cartilage, a joint tissue that heals very slowly.  If osteoarthritis can be diagnosed earlier, it may be possible to improve treatment outcomes and to delay or avoid surgical intervention.

Recent research published in the Biophysical Journal suggests that there may be a new way to diagnose osteoarthritis even earlier.  Since cartilage includes a high fluid content, scientists may be able to detect damage to cartilage by diagnosing the flow of fluids in the joint space.  Researchers were also able to determine that cartilage deficits caused by osteoarthritis were most visible during rapid compression of the joint.  In other words, damage to your knee from osteoarthritis should be most visible in high speed high impact activities.

So if you experience knee pain that is worst when you run, talk to your doctor.  We all hope that the pain will go away on its own, but the longer you wait before consulting a physician, the more damage can occur to your knee.  Every day that you delay treatment may eventually cost you.  Why risk it?

OA and Vitamin K

March 7, 2013

The vitamin K in these vegetables can reduce the risk and progression of osteoarthritis.

Vitamin K, commonly found in leafy green vegetables, may reduce your risk of osteoarthritis.  A recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that vitamin K deficiency was positively associated with knee osteoarthritis.  These results validate long-held cultural beliefs that vegetables are good for your health, and quantify one specific way in which they may improve your quality of life.  This study simply identifies a correlation between vitamin K deficiency and osteoarthritis, but that does not mean that adding vitamin K to your diet cannot improve your health now.

In fact, an independent study by the Boston University School of Medicine found that patients who recieved Vitamin K exhibited decreased osteoarthritic symptoms.  Adding vitamin K reduces knee pain, and decreases the rate of joint degeneration.  It may even be possible that it will accelerate healing.

So before you take medication and before you risk surgery, why not try a simple dietary solution?  Adding these vegetables could make your pain more manageable.


OA and Plasma Therapy

February 26, 2013

Platelets used in plasma therapy speed up healing, and my be helpful in treating osteoarthritis.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has been used by high-profile athletes for high-profile treatments.  PRP therapy works by taking a blood sample, isolating the platelets in the blood, and then injecting them back into the patient.  Platelets are an important part of the natural healing process, producing growth factors and forming blood clots to help close open wounds.  PRP therapy can reduce knee pain and improve function for patients with athletic or osteoarthritic injuries.

Recent research at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery supports the use of PRP therapy for patients with osteoarthritis.  In a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr. Brian Halpern evaluated the effectiveness of PRP therapy by objectively measuring the quality of patient’s cartilage with PRP treatment.  They found that after a single injection, there was no further damage to cartilage for the subsequent year.  Over that same time period, patients reported that their pain dropped to half of pre-treatment levels.

PRP therapy is a relatively new treatment, and may not be appropriate for everyone, but it might be right for you.  If you suffer from knee osteoarthritis, and struggle with knee pain, ask your doctor about PRP treatment.  A single treatment might make the next year a whole lot easier.

OA and Dysfunction

January 18, 2013

Inactivity can make knee osteoarthritis and pain much worse.

The word “dysfunction” refers to abnormal or impaired function, usually of a physiological system or social group.  With regard to osteoarthritis, generic dysfunction of an individual describes a present state below that individual’s potential; living a life of suffering and hardship when a better life is within your grasp.  Anatomical dysfunction such as severe knee deformities and knee pain can be a tremendous obstacle, but it is not insurmountable.  In the moment that your osteoarthritis prevents you from engaging in an activity, you face a broader and more damaging form of dysfunction.

A recent study at Northwestern university examined over one thousand patients with knee osteoarthritis.  Patients with severe knee dysfunction were roughly half as active as those without anatomical deficits.  While this may not seem extreme for individuals with severe deformities, what is frightening is that overweight individuals had the same levels of inactivity.  Obese patients showed even greater inactivity, at about a quarter of the activity level of lighter individuals still suffering from knee osteoarthritis.  Unfortunately, inactivity makes weight issues worse, and can propagate a cycle of inactivity and obesity that gets worse and worse.

But there is a silver lining:

Adjusting your activity level dramatically improves function.  An inactive (“dysfunctional”) individual can regain function and health by increasing their activity level.  If you are categorized as overweight or obese, you need not remain there.  Your ability to overcome obesity is limited only by your control over diet and exercise, because your knee pain and anatomical dysfunction will decrease with your weight.

So add some fiber to your diet.  Add a walk to your daily schedule.  And remember that slow, incremental change will keep you on the path to your goals.

OA and pain

January 4, 2013

Knee pain is a common symptom of osteoarthritis, and can be debilitating.

Recent research by Dr. Malfait at Rush University has identified a key component of the mechanism of ostoearthritis pain.  Knee pain is felt in the lower extremity and then relayed through the spine up into the brain.  In the brain, pain from osteoarthritis is primarily interpreted by proteins and receptors called MCP-1/CCR2.

Several mice that were genetically altered to have deficiencies of MCP-1 and CCR2 experienced less pain when given osteoarthritis.  This observation is important because it looks into an unexplored area of potential treatment.  Instead of simply addressing the mechanical causes of pain (including inflammation and deterioration), this research offers the potential to directly reduce pain in osteoarthritis.

Any discussion of pain should include the healthy role of pain in the body.   Pain serves to relay information about injury, and so elimination of pain receptors could allow progression of ostoearthritis in joints, further worsening the joints.  The identification of MCP-1 and CCR2 offers the potential for the isolated treatment of osteoarthritis pain without compromising the healthy pain systems of the body.

Artificial cartilage is often grown on lattices that weave collagen into a supportive tissue.

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to researchers who developed induced pluripotent stem-cells (IPS-cells).  IPS-cells do not carry the ethical stigma of embryonic stem cells, since they can be created by coaxing mature skin cells (from consenting adults) into their developmentally flexible states.  Most importantly, they offer the opportunity to externally grow healthy living tissue as needed.  So far, IPS-cells can be grown into relatively simplistic cells (like cartilage and bone), and not into more complex tissues like livers or kidneys.

Researchers at Duke University have recently developed a new technique to grow IPS-cells into cartilage.  This technique could permit a limitless production of cartilage for researching drug treatment.  Short term (within the next 3-5 years), cartilage from IPS-cells might be sophisticated enough for implantation.  This could delay a knee replacement by several years, and dramatically improve quality of life.

Understanding the relevance of things like IPS-cells matters because it reminds us of the importance of scientific development.  One of the recipients of this Nobel Prize earned it by turning a frog back into a tadpole.  While this may seem far from the daily knee pain felt by those suffering from knee osteoarthritis, it is his research that will lead us to the artificial cartilage that may cure them.