As you age, the cartilage in your knees begins to wear down through a process known as osteoarthritis. This cartilage provides the cushion between your joints, and once it wears down, the definitive treatment is a total knee replacement. However, there are ways to delay the process of osteoarthritis and reduce the stress that leads to degenerative joint pain.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
“A healthy weight and proper nutrition are critical to the overall health of our joints, especially in the lower extremities”. – Dr. Steven Aviles
- Body Weight – Your joints carry your body weight. Every extra pound is equivalent to adding three pounds of pressure on your knees. Reducing the pressure on your knees can postpone the process of osteoarthritis and the need for a knee replacement. Also, if your provider recommends knee replacement surgery, having a healthy body weight prior to a joint replacement can reduce the risk of any complications during surgery and during recovery.
- Good Nutrition – Your body needs nourishment to keep you moving on a day-to-day basis. Eating well-proportioned meals can help fight fatigue. Specific foods also provide key nutrients for your knees. These nutrients can also be incorporated in the form of supplements. Many foods provide a combination of health benefits, allowing one item to check off multiple boxes. See below for examples:
- Calcium – Cheese, Yogurt, Cottage Cheese
- Vitamin D – Fish, Mushrooms, Egg yolks
- Vitamin C – Oranges, Broccoli
- Omega-3 Fatty acids – Broccoli, Olive oil
- Protein – Lean meat, eggs
“We do not tell people with knee arthritis to stop exercising. We recommend modifying to low impact exercises. Exercise has both physical and mental health benefits. It helps to burn calories for weight loss. It can reduce stress. It can improve strength and flexibility which can also decrease knee pain. Exercise is therapeutic”. – Dr. Scott Meyer
For many individuals with knee pain, the fear of injury may outweigh the known benefits of exercise. However, having a routine of low-impact exercises can help strengthen your leg muscles and increase flexibility.
Exercise allows you to reduce stress on your knee joint by strengthening the muscles that support the area. Strengthening focuses on injury prevention and rehabilitation, whereas flexibility increases your range of motion and endurance for specific activities.
Low impact exercises incorporated into your daily routine allow you to keep your body moving. Some examples include:
- Bike Riding
You can also do exercises/stretches in the comfort of your home including:
- Straight-Leg Lift
- Single-Leg Dip
- Hamstring Curls
- Wall Squats
- Hamstring Stretch
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons published an exercise guide focusing on knee pain. Select the hyperlink link for the infographic.
Explore Joint Injections as a Treatment Option for Osteoarthritis
“Injections can be very helpful for patients with mild to moderate arthritis who are either not interested in considering surgery or trying to delay it due to other factors. They are safe when given in appropriate intervals and are well tolerated by the majority of patients who receive them.” – Dr. Craig Mahoney
When struggling with osteoarthritis, the protective layer of cartilage gets worn down. This cartilage serves as a shock absorber. The goal of an injection can be to reduce any inflammation, pain, and swelling but also can increase the lubrication between the two bones that make up the joint.
- Corticosteroid – Focuses on the late stages of arthritis or sudden increase in pain level.
- Viscosupplementation – A low-volume, single-injection treatment designed to act as a lubricant and shock absorber in the joint. Generally used if you don’t show obvious signs of inflammation and recommended as an alternative to corticosteroid if you have diabetes.
It is important to note that although injections may reduce or stop your joint pain, it does not prevent the pain from returning. Understanding how the pain affects your routine allows your physician to create an injection plan tailored to you.
Utilize a Knee Brace
“Knee braces or sleeves can be used as an alternative or adjunct to medications and injections to manage the symptoms of knee arthritis. If they provide enough relief, the potential need for a knee replacement may be postponed”. – Dr. Darin Larson
When fighting knee pain, you may need some extra support. If your knee pain is due to arthritis, it is common to have a knee brace be one of the first non-surgical treatments. A knee brace provides many benefits, including:
- Enhanced stability
- Reduced swelling
- Reduced pressure
By shifting weight away from the joint, the brace helps to reduce pain and discomfort. To ensure your brace is helping you perform your daily activities, you must get the correct type of brace.
- Functional – Protection and support following an injury
- Rehabilitative – Protect range of motion
- Patellofemoral – Focuses on kneecap alignment
- Prophylactic – Reduce/prevent knee injuries in sports
Although a knee brace can help your mobility, some drawbacks can be
- Skin breakdown
Your provider will recommend which knee brace will suit your needs from the various types. It is always best to consult with your provider before beginning the process of wearing a brace.
Providing you with options is one of our top priorities at Iowa Ortho. To discuss further options or get an evaluation on your knee pain, contact us at 515-247-8400 or request an appointment online.