Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a common, yet debilitating, joint disorder characterized by the progressive thinning of the knee's articular cartilage, which leads to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Knee OA most commonly occurs in the older population but can also develop in younger individuals due to various factors such as genetics, joint injuries, or obesity. As one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, knee OA poses a significant public health burden.
The hallmark of knee OA is the breakdown of the protective cartilage that cushions the joint, causing friction and pain within the joint during movement. This results in inflammation, pain, swelling and the formation of osteophytes or bone spurs. Patients may experience difficulty in performing daily activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, getting up and down from a chair and their quality of life can be substantially compromised. Several risk factors contribute to the development and progression of knee OA, including age, gender, genetics, obesity, joint injuries, and mechanical stress on the joint.
Diagnosis typically involves a combination of clinical assessment, imaging studies (x-ray, CT or MRI), and sometimes joint fluid analysis. Your GP may be involved in this process, yet often knee osteoarthritis is a condition where the assessment and management planning is delivered by the physiotherapist predominately.
While there is no overt cure for knee OA, management strategies focus on relieving symptoms, improving joint function, and slowing disease progression, and these are fantastically effective for many clients. Your OHL Physiotherapist can talk you through all the options for management, which can range from physiotherapy education + intermittent manual therapy + regular specific exercises, referral to the Dietitian for diet review, referral to the Podiatrist for a review on how your feet many be impacting your knee health and discussions on over the counter medications, use of walking aids and walking tips. There is also the opportunity to be involved in the GLAD (Good Living Arthritis: Demark) program, which formalises many of the options above. In more severe cases, surgical interventions such as joint replacement may be considered, and we’d work with you and your surgeon to best prepare and then rehabilitation from this operation.
The trialing of a program such as the GLAD program is highly recommended in the early stages of knee OA, and can be used as both a management technique as well as a pre-habilitation technique if surgery is required.
Ongoing research seeks to advance our understanding of the pathophysiology of knee OA and develop more effective treatments, but for now we have ample evidence to emphasise the importance of early diagnosis and a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to managing this prevalent musculoskeletal condition.
Our Physio team are well equipped to help you on any stage of your knee osteoarthritis journey, from intial assessment and diagnosis, to management planning and potentially rehabilitation after a total knee replacement. To book in please give us a call on 9431 5955 and/or you can book via our Client Portal on our website.