Weather Can Be a Pain in the Knee This Time of Year...

Rohde Photo






(As seen on Fox 2 Detroit “The Ladies Room”)

Tuesday, 13 Oct 2009, 9:37 PM EDT

By Dr. Rachel Rohde
Beaumont Hospital - Royal Oak

Knee pain is one of the most common orthopaedic complaints. If your knees ache when you wake in the morning, walk up and down stairs, kneel or crouch, or even when it rains, you might be living with arthritis.


What is arthritis?

Wherever two bones meet, they form parts of a joint. The ends of the bones are covered by cartilage, which is a slippery cushion that allows the joint surfaces to glide easily and painlessly. “Arthritis,” or inflammation of the joint, is associated with loss of cartilage. This can occur because of a history trauma (fracture, meniscal tear), inflammatory disease (rheumatoid arthritis), or degenerative wearing of cartilage (osteoarthritis). When the cartilage is so worn that the bone rubs against bone, our joints don’t function as well or as painlessly. Although arthritic knee pain can occur suddenly, usually it develops over time.


How common is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is one of the top five disabling conditions of older Americans, as likely to cause disability as heart disease! In 2001, over 5.5 million office visits were made to physician for this condition. Unfortunately, Caucasian women over 65 are the most frequently affected group.


How do I know if I have knee arthritis?

You might notice more stiffness, swelling, loss of range of motion, or even a sense of “buckling” or instability. Some people complain of pain worsening with activities, while others think that their pain is worst in the morning or when rising after inactivity. Even weather changes can affect your symptoms!

An examination by your physician or an orthopaedic surgeon might demonstrate swelling, deformity, crepitance (“crunching”), or loss of motion. X-Rays usually show that the joint space in the arthritic area is narrowed. If your doctor suspects rheumatoid arthritis, she or he might send you for laboratory studies as well.


Why me?

There are many risk factors for developing knee osteoarthritis. Some are not under your control (genetics, age, female gender), some might have been under your control in the past but now are not (previous injury), and some still can be changed (weight, repetitive stress, injury, high-impact sports, joint infection or inflammation)!


Isn’t there anything that can help get rid of this pain?

Treatment of osteoarthritis is aimed at decreasing pain and increasing function. Some of the options include:


Activity modification: Weight loss, low-impact (as opposed to high-impact) exercise, and avoidance of aggravating activities can decrease stress on weight-bearing joints.


Exercise: Physical therapy and exercise can reduce pain and improve function.

External devices: Braces, knee sleeves, modified shoes, and assistive devices like canes can be helpful.


Modalities: Heat, ice, liniments, or elastic bandages can decrease symptoms.


There are many treatments for knee osteoarthritis; ultimately, you and your doctor will decide what’s right for you based on your symptoms and lifestyle. With the right assistance, hopefully you can get out and enjoy the weather instead of just forecasting it in your knees!


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