Like my father, I have osteoarthritis. I wonder whether I inherited this, and what I can do about it. The biggest problem is knee pain that seems to be present much of the time.
Relief From Osteoarthritis Pain
By Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides
Like my father, I have osteoarthritis. I wonder whether I inherited this, and what I can do about it. The biggest problem is knee pain that seems to be present much of the time. I am 67 years old, and I have to admit that I am somewhat overweight.
You did not mention whether you are male or female. That might be of interest, because women have more osteoarthritis of the knee than do men. About 25 percent of people over age 55 have arthritis in their knees, and the prevalence increases as we age. Osteoarthritis of the hands can be inherited, along with other forms of arthritis.
Previous injury, work-related stress to the knee, and, of course, obesity all may play contributory roles in osteoarthritis.
Arthritis is inflammation of a joint, and as a consequence of pain, muscle weakness can follow. The cartilage lining the bones of the joints becomes damaged, and irregular surfaces are then even more prone to damage—a typical vicious cycle.
Misalignment of a joint leads to uneven wear and tear. In the knee, most pain is experienced between the kneecap and the femur (long thighbone).
Knee arthritis typically is more painful when climbing stairs, getting out of a chair, or walking long distances. Sometimes a person complains that their knee “gave way”; this can mean a ligament or cartilage is damaged, but more often it means the muscles supporting the joint are weak.
Tendons might be inflamed and cause pain that is mistaken for arthritis.
X-rays usually show evidence of arthritis, but at times pain caused by arthritis occurs in the absence of X-ray changes being visible.
Blood tests are not indicated, nor are they helpful in osteoarthritis.
Relief of pain is often the most pressing problem to the patient. Studies have shown that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents are superior in pain relief to acetaminophen or paracetamol. The side effects of acetaminophen, however, are fewer than the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, so it’s preferred as a first-line treatment.
Injections of hyaluronic acid into the joint do not seem beneficial. Injections of corticosteroids, while relieving pain, tend to degrade the bones of the joint and so are limited in their scope. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are commonly used for pain relief. And while studies have found little toxicity, the evidence on these substances suggests no efficacy over and above a placebo (the “feel good” effect that occurs through the perception that the treatment may or will help).
In our opinion, exercise to strengthen the muscles around the knee will improve pain in many circumstances and will promote stability of the joint. Exercises should be aimed at improving the functions a person performs on a daily basis, such as bending, climbing stairs, flexing the knees while lifting weights, and improving balance.
Weight loss, combined with strengthening exercises, has been found to be superior to exercise.
If the joint is found to be poorly aligned (deformed), sometimes a brace can be helpful.
Southeast Asians seem to have reduced inflammatory flare-ups of osteoarthritis; whether this is genetic or related to dietary composition has not been answered. Some claim turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, and there is some limited data supporting this. A major study would be required to permit the recommendation of turmeric for arthritis as a fully tested therapy.
We suggest that you lose some weight, strengthen your muscles, and perhaps have a physical therapist oversee your exercise program. Simple lifestyle interventions are often the most effective!
Surgical approaches have not been covered. These should be discussed with a joint specialist.
Our prayer is that the Lord will strengthen you and, as you seek help and apply the advice given, that you will experience wholeness in Christ and relief from discomfort.