Arthritis is defined as chronic joint inflammation and cartilage degeneration. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which has a strong genetic component and involves painful and progressive loss of surface cartilage. Other less common forms of arthritis include:
Common Arthritis symptoms include night pain, reduced range of motion, pain in external rotation and pain after prolonged sitting. The hallmarks of osteoarthritis include radiographic signs such as asymmetric cartilage loss, bone spur formation and cyst formation, with other indicators including progressive stiffness and deformity of the joint leading to loss of motion. Arthritis is diagnosed by combining clinical symptoms (pain, stiffness, swelling, deformity) with radiographic (x-ray) findings (joint space loss, bone spur formation, cysts).
The knee is surgically divided into three compartments: the medial (inside of the knee/closer to center of the body), the lateral (outside of the knee), and the patellofemoral compartment (behind the knee cap and in front of the end of the femur). Arthritis most commonly occurs in all three compartments simultaneously with various degrees with the medial compartment being most commonly and greatly affected. When knee arthritis occurs preferentially in the medial compartment, this is referred to as a “varus” knee. When it occurs more significantly in the lateral compartment, this is referred to as a “valgus” knee. When it occurs behind the kneecap only, this is referred to as, “patellofemoral compartment” arthritis.
Arthritis is diagnosed by combining clinical symptoms (pain, stiffness, swelling, deformity) with radiographic (x-ray) findings (joint space loss, bone spur formation, cysts). Occasionally, patients will present with radiographic evidence of arthritis and have minimal clinical symptoms. Even if the x-rays show “bone-on-bone” arthritis, the treatment is always guided by the clinical symptoms and not the radiographic findings.
There are many different treatment options for knee arthritis, all of which aim to reduce pain and improve function. Conservative treatment options include: