Living with knee arthritis is no fun. It can make every step seem like torture with sharp stabbing pain in one or both knees. There may also be aching pain and stiffness that is worse when you first get up in the morning or after sitting for extended periods of time.
First Line of Treatment
As with many of the different types of arthritis the first line of treatment is over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
These medications can relieve pain by reducing the inflammation in your knees. It is the inflammatory chemicals that your body produces that makes the nerves sensitive and increases the pain.
But there are Risks
Most people tolerate these drugs without problems; but they are still drugs and you need to discuss them with your doctor who knows your health history before starting any new medication.
Anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve pain by reducing swelling and inflammation.
Image thanks to raynata, via Wikimedia Commons
Glucosamine and Chondroitin are two different molecules that have both been found to help relieve the pain of osteoarthritis. Both are naturally occurring substances that are found in your body so the risk of side effects or problems is very slight.
Glucosamine is found in the synovial fluid that we discussed earlier. Researchers think that glucosamine helps your cartilage to rebuild and repair itself. (Remember: Joint cartilage does not have its own blood supply and so must get its nutrients from the tissues and fluids that surround it.)
Helping Your Knees Fix Themselves
Chondroitin is a substance that is found in joint cartilage. It is one of the building blocks that your body needs to heal damaged cartilage.
Several studies with large numbers of people have shown significant benefit with glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. Unfortunately, they do not seem to work for everyone.
You can learn more about glucosamine at The National Library of Medicine.
This x-ray shows that the knee cartilage is completely worn away and the bones are rubbing against each other.
There are two different types of injections that are helpful for many people suffering with painful osteoarthritis in their knees.
Steroid medications such as methylprednisolone or triamcinolone can be very effective for relieving pain when they are injected into the knee joint.
These treatments will have strong anti-inflammatory effects that can relieve pain at least temporarily.
When the Damage is Severe
However, if there is significant damage to the cartilage or other parts of your knee, the inflammation and pain may quickly return.
Remember the synovial fluid that we discussed earlier? It is the fluid in your knee joint that lubricates and nourishes the cartilage. When you have arthritis, and inflammation in your knee, this fluid becomes thin and watery and doesn't lubricate the joint very well.
Injections of hyaluronic acid can restore this lubrication. Hyaluronic acid is a major component of synovial fluid. It is very slippery and helps the different parts of your knee to slide smoothly across each other. This reduced friction and irritation reduces inflammation and relieves pain.
You can learn more about hyaluronic acid injections from The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
When Nothing Seems to Help
There are many different treatments for knee arthritis and the goal is not to make you pain free. The goal is to make it so you can live your life and to make it so you can get up and go do the things that you want to do.
No Treatment is Perfect
Unfortunately, no treatment is perfect. When there is significant damage to the cartilage and the bones are rubbing against each other these treatments may not be helpful.
When more conservative approaches do not relieve your pain, and you still feel limited by your knee arthritis, you may need to consider surgical treatments for your knee.