How to recognize and treat degeneration of the knee joints?

Although gonarthrosis most commonly affects obese women over 50 years of age, sick knees can annoy everyone, including men and younger people. Unfortunately, early diagnosis of pathological changes in the knee joint is difficult due to the lack of troublesome ailments. Usually, only advanced cases of degeneration reach the doctor, in which the damaged knee causes pain and makes movement much more difficult. So let’s see where is the degeneration of the knee joint and how is the treatment of this condition?

Factors accelerating knee joint degeneration

Degenerative changes consist in the gradual destruction of joint cartilage – it is a slow and at first imperceptible process, and at the same time impossible to stop completely. In the past, it was thought that osteoarthritis only affects people around retirement and is simply due to the natural aging of the body. However, how to explain the fact that more and more young people suffer from joint cartilage damage, and many older people do not have any rheumatic problems? Today, it is known that joint degeneration has much more complex causes than the aging of the body. And because the knee joint is the largest joint in the body, and at the same time extremely complicated and constantly operated, its damage is very likely. Gonarthrosis may be the result of:

  • prolonged physical work overloading the knee,
  • obesity
  • intensive sports,
  • injuries (eg damage to the ligaments),
  • weakening of muscles adjacent to the knee,
  • anatomical abnormalities of the knee (eg varus, valgus),
  • genetic strains,
  • hormonal disorders,
  • nutritional deficiencies,
  • inflammation caused by infection with bacteria or viruses,
  • other diseases (Lyme disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, rheumatism).

It follows from the above that knee joint degeneration does not have to affect only women over 50 years of age. Yes, female gender and postmenopausal age are conducive to disease, however, lifestyle and factors independent of the patient (diseases, congenital malformations) predispose to cartilage damage regardless of the birth certificate.

What is the degeneration of the knee joints?

The articular cartilage does not run blood vessels or nerves, so at the beginning the degenerative disease does not give any symptoms. It is only with time that the patient may notice stiffness of the knee after a long period of stillness (lying down, sitting or standing). Particular discomfort occurs when kneeling, squatting or climbing stairs. Degeneration of the knee joints is also manifested by an audible creaking, which may be accompanied by pain.

At the advanced stage of the disease there are problems with joint mobility, as a result of which the patient can not straighten his leg. The patient begins to limp and also experiences progressive deterioration in fitness. The damaged joint is deformed, which manifests itself outside in the form of a constantly “swollen” knee. In this phase, the patient complains about relentless pain, which increases the tension of the surrounding muscles and thus hinders moving the leg. If gonarthrosis involves the patellofemoral joint, pain is particularly noticeable when touching the patella.

The consequence of degenerative changes is the thinning of the joint cartilage layer, which leads to the unveiling of the bone root and rubbing against each other. This condition causes severe pain when bending the leg and symptoms of inflammation (swelling, redness and warming of the skin around the joint). Some patients suffering from knee joint degeneration may develop a Baker cyst (visible cyst under the knee). In severe cases, deformation of the lower limbs occurs – the legs bend into the arch (so-called deformity of the knees) or form an X-shape (valgus).

Knee degeneration – treatment and rehabilitation

The method of treatment of gonarthrosis depends on the severity of joint damage and the severity of the discomfort. At the beginning, the doctor may only recommend rehabilitation (physical exercises + physical therapy), which brings a number of benefits: it alleviates inflammation, restores joint mobility, strengthens the muscles of the lower limbs. People suffering from knee joint degeneration are helped by treatments using low temperature (cryotherapy), magnetic field (magnetotherapy), laser, shock wave ESWT and ultrasounds. In addition, it is worth taking supplements with glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin, which slow the progression of degenerative changes.

In the event of high overweight or obesity, it is advisable to dump at least 10 kg of body weight to relieve strained joints. In order to stop the development of the disease, it is worth introducing into the diet products rich in omega-3 (fatty marine fish, unrefined vegetable oils), antioxidants (vegetables and fruits) and vitamin D (boiled sea fish, eggs, milk and its products).

In the majority of patients with knee joint degeneration, the treatment also includes treatment with injections of hyaluronic acid, which relieves inflammation and brings a long-term improvement in health. In addition, analgesics and anti-inflammatories can also be used, also in the form of ointments and gels. In the event of exacerbation of symptoms, the doctor may propose direct steroid injections (the so-called steroid blockade). If all the above treatments fail, and the disease has led to significant damage to the joint, surgery remains: cartilage cleansing by arthroscopy, and eventually joint replacement with artificial, i.e., arthroplasty.