If you are experiencing chronic knee pain, it’s time to see an orthopedic physician for an evaluation. The pain may indicate arthritis, which can become worse and lead to disability if left untreated.
Let’s talk about chronic knee pain, whether it may indicate arthritis, and where you can go for a medical assessment by a doctor and treatment to relieve your pain.
What Is Arthritis?
“Arthro-“ plus “-itis” translates to joint inflammation. Arthritis has various causes, and the main symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 23% of adults in the United States have some sort of arthritis. Certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), can cause unusual symptoms such as fever and weight loss.
How Can Arthritis Cause Chronic Knee Pain?
The most common types of arthritis that tend to cause persistent knee pain include the following:
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, so it is often called just “arthritis.” Your knees have protective sections of cartilage – each section is called a meniscus, and each knee has two menisci – cushioning your bones from rubbing against each other as you move. As you get older, or if you’re an athlete and use your knees heavily, that protective cartilage wears down. The bones can then grind against each other, which causes intense knee pain.
If the following symptoms accompany your knee pain, you may have osteoarthritis:
- A grating feeling when moving the knee
- Decreased flexibility
Also called “wear and tear” arthritis, older adults are generally the most vulnerable to osteoarthritis. Other factors such as being overweight or engaging in activities that place repetitive and intense strain on the knees can also contribute to knee osteoarthritis. The damage is generally irreversible, but treatments are available to control the symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can affect people of all ages. It causes the immune system to attack various areas of a person’s body, including the joints, causing pain and chronic inflammation which may lead to bone erosion.
If you also have the following symptoms in addition to knee pain, you may have rheumatoid arthritis:
- Warmth in the joint
- Stiffness after inactivity
People who smoke, are obese, or have a family history of this type of arthritis are at risk of developing it.
How Is the Cause of Knee Pain Diagnosed?
In order to receive appropriate treatment, it is crucial to have a doctor diagnose whether or not your chronic knee pain is due to arthritis. After a physical examination, your doctor may recommend that you undergo laboratory tests and/or diagnostic imaging tests, such as the following:
- CT scan
- Blood test
Always have your test results interpreted by a licensed health professional.
Treatments for Chronic Knee Pain
If you are diagnosed with arthritis in your knee, there are multiple treatment options available:
- Medication. Although the damage is irreversible, you can take medication to alleviate the pain and to decrease the swelling in your knee. If over-the-counter medication doesn’t work to alleviate these issues, your doctor can give you a prescription that is stronger or recommend other treatments, such as injection therapy.
- Physical Therapy. Physical therapy aims to strengthen your leg muscles and to improve the flexibility and range of motion in your knee. The increased strength also provides additional support for the affected joint, which will naturally help to reduce the pain.
- Surgery. If conservative methods fail to provide relief for your chronic knee pain, you may undergo surgery to fix the problem. Options range from minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery (which is an outpatient procedure) to total knee replacement.
Knee Pain Treatment and Diagnosis in Central Maryland
While your knee pain may seem like a problem that you can power through, it may lead to more serious conditions later on if it is left untreated. Here at the Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland, our team of board-certified physicians is here to help alleviate your knee pain for long-lasting relief.
We have locations in Catonsville, Columbia, and Eldersburg for your convenience. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation, call us today at (410) 644-1880 or (855) 4MD-BONE (463-2663), or fill out our appointment request form online. We look forward to serving you!