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Understanding how your knee works

Three bones meet up at the knee joint: the end of the thighbone (femur), the top of the shinbone (tibia) and the knee cap (patella). The knee also contains large ligaments, which help control motion by connecting bones and by bracing the joint against abnormal types of motion. A wedge of soft cartilage between the femur and tibia, called the meniscus, serves to cushion the knee and help it absorb shock during motion.

Osteoarthritis

When the cartilage between the femur and tibia is injured or worn away – which is actually the definition of osteoarthritis – the bones grind against each other. That grinding hurts. You can feel it climbing stairs, working in the garden or just bending your knees. It may even keep you up at night.

According to researchers, the link between genetics and osteoarthritis appears to be strong . In other words, if your mother had it, you may be more prone to have it too.1 Other contributing factors may be trauma to the knee, overuse on the job or being overweight. In addition, osteoarthritis can occur when joints are out of alignment, as in people who are bowlegged or knock-kneed.

 

Normal Knee
Normal Knee
Moderate Stage Osteoarthritis
Moderate Stage Osteoarthritis
Severe Stage Osteoarthritis
Severe Stage Osteoarthritis

A sign of osteoarthritis, or any kind of arthritis, is pain in or around the joint. The pain may be there all the time or may come and go. It often occurs during or after activity or exercise. However, it may also happen after you’ve rested, or even when you are trying to sleep. The pain may be in one spot or you may feel it all over your body. Your joints may feel stiff or become swollen, red or tender.

Osteoarthritis in the knee can be treated. Because arthritis may worsen over the years, it is common for treatment to involve more than one approach and to change over time. Although there is no cure, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in slowing or preventing more damage to your joints. Together, you and your doctor can determine the best treatment options for you.

 

References:

  1. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute of Health (NIH), Handout on Health: Osteoarthritis. May 2006. NIH Publication No. 06-4617. Available at http://www.niams.nih.gov/hi/topics/arthritis/oahandout.htm.

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