Osteoarthritis of the Knee

The knee joint is formed by the end of the thigh bone (femur) and the upper end of the lower leg bone (tibia).  The ends of these bones are covered with cartilage which acts like a cushion for the joint.  The cartilage has very little friction and allows the joint to move smoothly and without pain.  For a variety of reasons, the cartilage can loose its ability to repair and maintain itself.  If this "wearing" of the cartilage continues, the bone beneath the cartilage is exposed resulting pain and stiffness. 

The severity of wearing of the cartilage may or may not correlate with the amount of pain in the joint.  However, complete loss of cartilage (aka "endstage osteoarthritis" or "bone on bone" arthritis) is almost universally associated with some degree of pain, stiffness and disability.  The pain caused by osteoarthritis is usually worse with any activity which requires pressure on the knee or movement of the knee.  People with knee arthritis commonly report pain and difficulty with prolonged standing and walking, going up and down stairs, and other activities which stress the knees. 

The treatment of arthritis depends on many factors including the severity of the cartilage wear, the severity of the pain and stiffness, patient age and activity level, and patient weight and overall health.  As a general rule, conservative treatments including activity modification, generalized conditioning, muscles strengthening, physical therapy, medications, injections, the use of a cane and rest will improve the pain associated with early or moderate osteoarthritis.  For patients with severe cartilage loss and long standing, progressive hip pain, total knee replacement or partial knee replacement can offer dramatic improvement in pain, function and quality of life.

Orthopedic Conditions
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