The most common type of knee arthritis is knee osteoarthritis. Knee arthritis is a disease that affects the cartilage of the knee joint, which is a shock absorbing smooth surface that covers the part of the bones that move against each other in the knee joint when you move your leg. This allows smooth pain free movement of the knee joint. In an individual with knee arthritis, the cartilage breaks down and wears away, losing the shock absorbing smooth surface between the bones. As a result, the bone underneath the cartilage rubs together, causing pain, swelling and loss of knee mobility, as well as development of little bony protrusions called bone spurs. The development of knee arthritis is a process that occurs over time.
There are several factors that make people more susceptible to developing knee arthritis. These increased increasing age, being over-weight, a previous knee injury, and engaging in repetitive activities (ie. Running) that put added stress through the knee joint.
Physiotherapy can help manage knee arthritis, and early physiotherapy intervention can help delay the onset and progression of knee arthritis. As knee arthritis progresses, it may get to the point where surgical intervention is necessary, however the more mobility you have and the stronger your muscles prior to surgery, the quicker the recovery and the better the outcome. Even if you are a surgical candidate, seeing a physiotherapist can benefit your knee arthritis
A Physiotherapist will take a detailed history and complete a comprehensive assessment, to determine the severity of your knee arthritis. If you have not had one already, your physiotherapist may refer you to your doctor for diagnostic imaging, which is typically done with an x-ray. With the information gathered from the assessment, the physiotherapist will develop an individualized treatment plan to treat your knee arthritis. Based on your assessment and your symptoms, your individualized treatment plan may include:
- Manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue release, mobilization or manipulation
- An individualized exercise program including range of motion exercises, muscle strengthening and stretching. As you improve, the physiotherapist will progress your exercises to make them more functional to help you reach your goals.
- Education on activity modification, posture, and sleeping positions
- A knee brace may be recommended
- Modalities such as acupuncture, TENS, ultrasound, heat or ice