Did you know, one in two adults will develop some form of osteoarthritis, or “OA”, in their lifetime? And amongst the various locations of OA, the knee is undoubtedly the most common area to develop OA.
What is OA?
In its simplest form, OA is the breakdown of tissue located at joint surfaces as a result of chronic inflammation and disruption of normal cellular processes. How do these “cellular processes” become disrupted? Usually by way of impaired joint mechanics, improper loading, obesity, aging with a history of injury at the joint, and sometimes even genetics plays a role. So why is the knee the most commonly affected?
Why the Knee?
The knee is likely most commonly affected due to its role in locomotion (or movement) and its lifetime exposure to stress. It is important to understand that stress of the joint is not inherently bad. In fact, movement and exercise create a certain level of stress in the joint that actually helps to lubricate the joint and maintain its health. The problem arises when this stress exceeds a certain threshold and does so repeatedly, over time. Additionally, a little extra weight and being sedentary only negatively contribute to knee OA.
What can be done?
If you don’t yet have OA, the best advice is to stay active! Focus on your flexibility, mobility of the hips and ankles, and leg strength, including the hips. Remember, “motion is lotion”. The movement you create at the knee, when optimal and loaded appropriately, maintains knee joint health.
If you have OA, the best advice to stay active! You didn’t read that wrong and it wasn’t a typo. Physical activity is essential for restoring the optimal joint mechanics (as much as possible) and lubricating the joint. This joint lubrication becomes even more important as OA progresses since the progression of OA leads to “bone-on-bone”. Similarly, focusing on flexibility of the calves and quadriceps, as well as maintaining good strength of the hips, is essential to minimizing pain and dysfunction. I should note that while exercise can be tremendously helpful and important in the rehabilitation of knee OA, it doesn’t always help and some people require more invasive treatment (knee replacement surgery). I say this out of transparency and my belief that “everything works, but not everything works for everybody”. With that being said, we have seen many people improve their walking tolerance, have significantly less pain during daily activities, continue with recreational activities (golf, pickleball, tennis, etc.) and enjoy life with a well-developed and carried out rehabilitation program.
Hopefully this helps your understanding of OA, specifically of the knee, and what can be done if you’re suffering from this!