Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis found in the knee. It is described as a wearing away (or degeneration) of the cartilage that cushions and protects bone surfaces in a joint.
Predisposing factors, or those factors which increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis in the knee are included below; however, one of the most frequently seen factors is pronation. Pronation is a turning out of the foot at the ankle, so that one has a tendency to walk on the inner border of the foot. When the foot turns out, the lower leg and knee are forced to turn inward (internal rotation). This causes extra pressure to be exerted on the inner knee cartilage, which in turn produces a pre-mature and uneven wearing down of this portion of the knee's cartilage. The result is inflammation, stiffness, pain, and eventually osteoarthritis. Custom-made foot orthotics are needed to control pronation in order to straighten out the lower leg, and to insure an even pressure across the knee's cartilage. This will help to prevent: uneven wear and tear on the knee's cartilage, and osteoarthritis. Custom-made orthotics, along with preventive bracing, is discussed in a following section, Self-Treatment. Other predisposing factors for osteoarthritis of the knee include:
- Heredity: bow legs, one leg shorter than the other, and flat arches are other commonly seen biomechanical disorders that can cause pre-mature and uneven wearing down of the knee cartilage. These biomechanical disorders prevent the lower leg from being straight, so that the lower leg applies uneven pressure across the knee joint (cartilage). This uneven pressure causes pre-mature and uneven wearing down of the knee cartilage.
- Aging: the normal wear and tear that our joints undergo during our lifetime. The saying is true: "If you live long enough, you will develop osteoarthritis."
- Trauma: it may be due to an injury of a joint. This injury can be due to over-utilization of the joint, a fracture, or surgery on a joint.
- Overweight: the extra weight that the knees must carry when walking will produce pre-mature degeneration of the knee cartilage.
The most common symptoms that one may experience are:
- Brief period of morning stiffness that lessens after moving around.
- Aching pain in the knee which increases with use, and is relieved by rest.
- The affected joint usually appears swollen, and this swelling feels "hard." However, there is no redness, nor increased warmth around the joint.
- The affected joint is tender when you apply pressure to it.
- The range of motion of the joint is usually limited.
What is Knee Cartilage? There are two distinct types of cartilage found in the knee:
- Articular cartilage is a layer of fibro-elastic tissue that covers and protects the ends of bones at a joint. This cartilage acts as a buffer between bones as they move against each other, preventing painful rubbing of bone against bone.
- Menisci (Meniscus, singular) are two "C" shaped thick fibro-elastic tissue pads found in the knee. Their functions are:
- to protect the ends of the femur and tibia in the knee.
- but even more important, they act as shock absorbers in the knee.
The pathology of Osteoarthritis begins with an uneven wearing down of the joint cartilage, which may be due to anyone of the points that were discussed in the second paragraph (pronation, aging, trauma, heredity, or overweight). This uneven wearing down of the cartilage produces a narrowing of the joint space, and finally bone begins to rub against bone. When bone rubs against bone we may experience: pain; stiffness; decreased movement of the joint; swelling; bone spur formation at the edges of the joint surface; a grinding or "clicking" sound or feeling when the joint is moved.
Self-Treatment of Osteoarthritic Knee Joint: The most successful treatment is to protect the knee joint, especially when we are weight-bearing. This is the "Gold-Standard" of medical treatment—the treatment most recognized by all of medicine to be effective. Protecting the joint will ensure:
- a reduction in joint pain
- significant slow down in the progress of the disease
- a reduction in the chances of our injuring other joints when we walk. If we have a painful knee, we sub-consciously force ourselves to walk in an abnormal way, so as to try and minimize the pressure we exert on the knee joint. When we do this, we apply abnormal and excessive pressure on other parts of our body (such as the hip, back, etc.). This is called compensation. This compensation leads to over-utilization of these areas, and new sites of osteoarthritis.
The two most effective treatments used by doctors and therapists to protect the arthritic knee joint are:
1. Knee braces that provide pain relief by:
- Stabilizing the knee.
- Exerting mild and soothing compression to reduce swelling of the knee.
- Providing support for the knee ligaments and tendons that have been affected by arthritis. When the knee joint wears down unevenly, some of the ligaments and tendons around the knee are stretched. Unless supported by a knee brace, these stretched ligaments and tendons will cause pain.
For more information about our comfortable and uniquely effective Arthritic Knee Braces, click on these links:
Comfort Arthritic Knee Wrap
Comfort Elastic Knee Stabilizer
2. Custom-made orthotics for arthritis stabilize the knee by overcoming the abnormal forces that are exerted on the knee by bow-legs, a short leg, pronation, and flat arches. When this occurs, the lower leg sits straight within the knee joint, and this prevents an uneven and painful wearing down of the knee cartilage.
Our custom-made orthotics are made with space-age shock absorbent materials that absorb the shock of each step, rather than passing the shock on to the knees. This will give general shock absorbing protection to the hip and lower back, making each step a joy!
The advanced technology we employ enables our custom-made orthotics to gently hold the feet in their neutral or normal position, thus overcoming the biomechanical defects of the feet and legs (such as pronation) that lead to an uneven wearing down of the knee's cartilage. This will help to stop the progression and pain of arthritis of the knee.
Our orthotics will also provide semi-flexible support to the arch by "giving" to absorb the shock of each step, rather than passing on this shock to the knee (the orthotic acts in the same way that a shock absorber does on an automobile). When our weight is removed from the orthotic, the arch returns to its original height since the material we use has a built-in "memory." By doing away with the "jarring effect" on our knee, each time we take a step, arthritic pain is reduced.
Finally, by providing increased padding and support for the balls of the feet using materials that mimic the action of our own fatty pads, our custom-made orthotics will not only provide comfort, but will also help to prevent stress fractures, joint pain, and callus pain. Cick here to order a pair of our Custom-Made Orthotics for Arthritis of the Knee.