The many forms of knee pain and the tools to make it better

Ranjan Sinha

August 18, 2020

The knee is the largest joint in our body, and a complex one. Cartilage cushions the knee joint and keeps it stable. Knee pain makes it difficult to perform day-to-day activities such as climbing stairs or walking. In more severe cases, it can become a disability, such as arthritis.

The term “arthritis” refers to inflammation of joints within the body. It may affect a single joint, or it may affect multiple joints. However, it is particularly common in the knee. The main symptoms are painful swelling and stiffness. There is no cure for arthritis, but there are many tools to manage pain and improve the quality of life.

The major types of arthritis that affect the knee are:

Osteoarthritis: This is the most common form, induced by wear and tear of the protective cartilage and mostly seen in those over 50 years of age. The fraying of the cartilage results in bone rubbing on bone, which is highly painful and gets worse with time.

Rheumatoid arthritis: This is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects not just the knee but multiple joints throughout the body. The body’s immune system turns on itself, and in the case of the knee, damages cartilage and ligaments.

It is “symmetrical” in the sense that it affects both knees.

Posttraumatic arthritis: This form of arthritis develops from accumulated damage or injury to the knee.

What can you do to reduce knee pain?

Being overweight or obese can put a lot of strain on the knee and is one of the major causes of osteoarthritis. Losing weight, even 10% of body weight, has been shown to reduce knee pain. As part of the same study, it was observed that those who lost 20% or more of their body weight saw an additional 25% drop in some osteoarthritis disease markers.

A targeted and sustainable approach that involves a combination of diet and exercise is the best strategy to lose weight. The healthiest weight loss happens over a few months, with a focused effort towards the adoption of healthy eating and regular exercise as a permanent lifestyle change.

Often, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol accompany obesity. Targeted weight loss also brings a marked improvement in cholesterol levels and other parameters.

If your knee osteoarthritis is very painful, you could consult a physical therapist to narrow down what exercise methods you can pursue, and which ones to avoid. For instance, gym exercises that involve lifting heavy weights or high-impact activities like running may put more strain on your knees. In contrast, swimming is a great way to flex the knee in water without any resistance. As your knee strengthens, your physical therapist can guide you towards other workouts.

Along with exercise, a personalized nutrition and wellness program that is designed based on your genetic profile and gut microbiome profile can be a great tool in fighting obesity and reducing knee pain.

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