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    Knee Osteoarthritis: Living Pain-Free

    Michelle Galen, MD Family Medicine, Deaconess Clinic 01/27/2016
    Our knees do a lot of “heavy lifting” so it’s not surprising that nearly 50% of adults will develop osteoarthritis in the knee by the age of 85.  The human knee consists of three bones (kneecap, tibia and femur) that must move in concert to allow normal range of motion.  The ends of all three bones are covered in cartilage to cushion the joint during movement.  With aging and “wear-and-tear,” the cartilage starts to wear away and the result is painful bone-on-bone friction and/or bone spurs.

    Symptoms include stiff or swollen joints, pain and swelling, weakness or “buckling” of the knee and discomfort with specific activities.  Sufferers may experience pain with exercise, sitting or standing.  Knee osteoarthritis affects women more often than men and genetics often play a part. 

    Knee osteoarthritis is not curable but managed with lifestyle adjustments and medical intervention.  Patient options include:
    • Lifestyle changes – Physical therapy can teach adjusted gaits or strength training exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee.  Switching from high impact to low impact exercise will minimize discomfort as well.  Maintaining one’s appropriate weight, or weight loss for those who are overweight could also provide relief. 
    • Heat/Ice Application – Applying heat and/or ice during a flare-up can alleviate discomfort.  Unfortunately, this is not a permanent solution and must be repeated with each bout of pain.
    • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) – Naproxen and ibuprofen are two examples of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can decrease swelling and discomfort.  However, consistent usage can cause gastrointestinal distress or ulcers. 
    • Cox-2 Inhibitors – These drugs are a sub-set of NSAIDs that are less likely to cause gastrointestinal upset. 
    • Corticosteroids – Physicians will inject powerful cortisone agents directly into the knee to reduce irritation and tenderness.  Effects from injections typically last between two and four months. 
    • Medical Devices – The use of braces provides additional support for weak knees.  However, devices must be used consistently, are generally bulky and may make wearers self-conscious. 
    • Diclofenac Sodium Gel – This product is presently in clinical trials and is proving to be successful in managing the discomfort of knee osteoarthritis.  The drug is applied topically thereby eliminating potential gastrointestinal side effects and patients can self-administer at home.  If you suffer from knee osteoarthritis or persistent knee pain, contact your doctor to determine eligibility for clinical trial participation.
    Knee pain doesn’t have to be a condition of growing older.  With the right treatment, you can remain active and pain-free for years to come!  
    To learn about participating in
    clinical trials for knee pain
    or call 877-654-0311
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