Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that can occur in any one over the age of 50. It is a “wear and tear” type of arthritis that wears away the protective cartilages of the bones so that the surfaces become uneven and rough. The normal distances between the bones narrows and bone can rub against bone causing stiffness, swelling, pain and inflammation.
To diagnose and treat this condition your orthopedic surgeon will perform a physical exam, and then if needed order imaging studies. X-rays, CT or MRI scans can give more information about the condition of the bones and surrounding tissues. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are several medical and surgical options available to treat this disease.
In the mildest forms of osteoarthritis, lifestyle changes can be helpful. As an example, switching from high impact activities like running and tennis 2 low impact exercises such as cycling and swimming. If you are overweight and can lose weight, there will be less stress on the joint and this will decrease the pain.
Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, Celebrex and Mobic can decrease the inflammation in the joint due to the arthritis and therefore, decrease the amount of pain and swelling. Additionally, corticosteroids and viscosupplements, which improve the joint fluid, can be injected directly into the knee to reduce pain and swelling. Glucosamine and chondroitin are substances found in joint cartilage and can be taken as a supplement. There are patient reports that the supplements help relieve pain, but unfortunately, there is no evidence that it reverses the progression of arthritis.
Alternative treatments such as platelet rich plasma, growth factors from stem cells, acupuncture and magnetic pulse therapy have been tried for osteoarthritis of the knee. Of these the growth factors contributed by platelet rich plasma and stem cells hold the most promise. The growth factors have potential to grow new tissue and heal the damaged surfaces. Research is ongoing to try to confirm their effectiveness at treating osteoarthritis in the knee and other joints of the body.
When these medical treatments fail to relieve the pain, your surgeon will discuss the option of a partial or total knee replacement. In these procedures the damaged tissue is removed, and new metal or plastic joint surfaces are positioned in order to restore the function of the knee.
At Wickenburg community Hospital, we are fortunate to have 2 specialists with experience at treating this disease: Dr. Mitch Wagner and his physician assistant Kevin Redus, PA-C. If you have concerns about the functioning of your knees you can call their office directly at 928-668-5506 to make an appointment.