Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, causing joint pain, swelling and stiffness by wearing down the slippery cartilage that keeps bones from rubbing together.
You're especially at risk if you are older, overweight or have injured a joint, but arthritis affects young people too.
Osteoarthritis Risk Factors for Younger Generations
Strain and injury are common causes of knee pain in people under 50, but if you have a family history of arthritis, or you injured your knee at a young age, osteoarthritis may be the culprit, according to Doylestown Health orthopedic surgeon Charles B. Burrows, MD.
"A high school football player who tears a ligament or cartilage in the knee at the age of 18 would be much more likely to develop knee arthritis in middle age or earlier than the average person," explains Dr. Burrows.
Signs and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
If you wake up in the morning having stiff knees with the first step of the day, also known as "stiffness on startup," you may have osteoarthritis.
Swelling and pain after activity is another red flag. "Patients often report having difficulty with a sport of activity they used to participate in, or say they feel pain with everyday activities such as going to the mall or supermarket," says Dr. Burrows.
In addition to obtaining a medical history and conducting a physical exam, your orthopedist will want to know about the symptoms and issues that prompted you to make an appointment. X-rays help determine if you have osteoarthritis, and an MRI may be ordered to take a closer look at cartilage and to check for other injuries, according to Dr. Burrows.
- Over-the-counter medications including acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen to help with inflammation and pain
- Cortizone injections to relieve pain and inflammation
- Hyaluronic acid "gel shots" are lubricants injected into the arthritic knee
- Physical therapy
- Weight management
- Surgery when other treatments are no longer effective
Exercising with Osteoarthritis
"Though it sounds counterintuitive, exercise helps people who have osteoarthritis feel better in the long term," says Dr. Burrows, noting that physical therapists can work with patients to design a program to help them stay in shape without exacerbating symptoms. Options often include activities with the foot fixed in a device, such as a stationary bike or elliptical, which involve less impact on the knee.
Building the muscle around the knee joint can be very beneficial for the long-term management of arthritis as well as preparing the patient for surgery, such as knee replacement.
Considering joint replacement surgery? Request a consultation now
About Doylestown Health's Orthopedic Institute
For joint repair and replacement, spine and hand surgery, sports medicine and osteoporosis care, you’ll find Doylestown Health's Orthopedic Institute is the perfect fit. With same and next day appointments available, our board-certified and fellowship-trained physicians treat all types of bone and muscle conditions. Here, experienced orthopedic surgeons offer the latest technology and progressive-care pathways to return patients to the activities they love – fast.