Knee arthritis is a common cause of knee pain. Other common causes of knee pain include damage to the cartilage, injuries to the ligaments, and fractures of the bones.
Knee arthritis is most often osteoarthritis which is the wear and tear type of arthritis.
Of course, your knees can also be affected by any of the autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis.
Pain and Stiffness
The most common symptom of arthritis in your knees is pain. There may also be pain and stiffness when you first get up in the morning.
This pain and stiffness will often improve after you have been up and around for a few hours. You may also notice grinding and popping that occurs with kneeling or squatting.
The swelling and inflammation
of knee arthritis.
Image thanks to the CDC, via Wikimedia Commons
A lifetime of Minor Injuries
Knee arthritis is due to an accumulation of minor injuries that occur over a lifetime of activity. Every time that you fell on your knee or it got bumped or banged may have damaged the cartilage or other important structures in your knee.
When you are 12 years old the cartilage in your knee joint is smooth and shiny but over time it becomes rough and irregular. When these surfaces are no longer smooth they can cause the wear and tear to progress more rapidly and eventually the cartilage is worn away.
Pain and other symptoms develop gradually over several years.
Damaged cartilage and minor trauma can lead to inflammation that causes pain and stiffness. When the cartilage is gone exposing areas of bone in your knee joint the pain can become excruciating.
The key to avoiding arthritis in your knees is keeping your knees healthy. Your knees are amazing pieces of equipment but when they are damaged and not working correctly the pain and other problems will gradually get worse over time.
A Healthy Lifestyle
Your knees like activity. Researchers who compared runners and non-runners found a lower incidence of knee degenerative joint disease in the running group. It appears that running helps to protect your knees from osteoarthritis. And, running may be better for your knees than walking.
Your knees, like many of the other structures in your body, get stronger and healthier with use. Activity such as running regularly will make your bones stronger and it will stimulate the production of synovial fluid.
Synovial Fluid is Key
The cartilage that covers the ends of the bones in your knees has no blood supply. This very important part of your knee gets its nutrition from the synovial fluid that acts as a lubricant in your knee joint.
Running, and to a lesser extent walking, stimulates the production of this nutrient rich fluid that bathes the cartilage in your knees. Synovial fluid gives your cartilage the building blocks that it needs to repair minor injuries and stay healthy.
A sedentary lifestyle causes this important fluid to become watery and depleted of nutrition. This lack of lubrication accelerates cartilage damage and takes away the stuff that it needs to rebuild.
A Healthy Diet
A balanced and healthy diet along with maintaining a healthy weight will contribute to improving your overall health and the condition of your knees.
Cycling Better than Running?
Experts seem to agree that cycling can also be knee friendly and perhaps better for your knees than running. It appears to keep your muscles strong and stimulate the all-important synovial fluid.
While it is avoiding the pounding that runner's knees must endure, it is this lack of pounding that may lead to osteoporosis in cyclists. Studies have shown an increased incidence of osteoporosis, especially in the lower extremities, in bicyclists when compared to runners.
Learn more about Why Runners Don’t Get Knee Arthritis from the New York Times.
Finding A Healthy Balance
The best way to protect your knees is to find a balance of healthy activities. This need not be a structured exercise program.
Simply leading an active life and maintaining an appropriate weight are important steps to avoid arthritis.