Osteoarthritis is the gradual degradation of cartilage within the knee joint, a wear and tear condition which happens to us all, though the extent at which the cartilage is worn away differs greatly between individuals. The ‘itis’ suffix indicates that the condition is one which encounters inflammation.
The degradation of cartilage within the joint leads to bone on bone contact which can be extremely painful for patients as well as resulting in a stiffening of the knee which further impairs movement. This can affect even the simplest of tasks from walking, shopping and even being mobile around the home and getting in and out of chairs.
There are a variety of treatment options available covering lifestyle changes, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, surgery and the use of a knee brace specifically designed for managing Osteoarthritis.
The knee is divided into three major compartments in that of the medial, lateral and patello-femoral, the latter being located at the front of the knee between the knee-cap and the thighbone.
The medial and lateral compartments act as weight bearing compartments whereas the patella-femoral compartment acts as a pulley system by increasing efficiency of the power of the quads without being directly involved in weight bearing itself.
Cartilage sits in each compartment acting as a cushion between the femur and tibia. It is this cartilage which degrades naturally overtime with the force of our entire bodyweight passing through the joint. Factors such as increased load due to obesity and abnormal alignment of the leg
Unicompartment / Medial compartment Osteoarthritis
Whilst the condition is degenerative it is possible that Osteoarthritis will just affect one compartment within the joint rather than multiple. Primarily the medial compartment is affected which, in additional to pain and reduced mobility, the patient may notice a deformity of the leg. This typically develops over a number of years resulting in a bow-legged effect resulting from a loss in the thickness of the articular surface which covers the weight bearing area.
A healthy medial meniscus is smooth and allows the bones to glide over it whereas degradation here creates friction which is the source of the condition.
Sufferers of Osteoarthritis face a dilemma in that it is recommended they remain active to stay healthy, yet at the same time staying active can be painful. Light and non-weight bearing activities such as swimming can be extremely beneficial, as exercise releases endorphins or natural painkillers into the body.
Remaining active is also essential in maintaining a healthy weight as you are looking to minimise the load applied to your affected knee joint and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle can help achieve this. Painkillers are often prescribed to help achieve this however it is important to not become reliant on them as they merely mask the symptom of the condition rather than treating it.
This is obviously the most drastic option in either a partial or full knee replacement and should never be taken lightly. A full knee replacement can take a patient up to 6 months to fully recover and whilst it does remove the condition, since the cartilage and affected joint have been replaced, the artificial knee does only typically last 10-15 years on average which can be a concern in that further surgery may be required further down the line.
Compartmental Osteoarthritis of the Knee Joint Treatment
Unloading the damaged area of the knee
Without any treatment osteoarthritis will gradually become worse, with further degradation of the cartilage within the knee joint. It is this bone on bone contact which is the main source of pain for sufferers which ultimately affects mobility.
The Unloader One offers knee support for arthritis by applying a gentle force which works to reduce the pressure on the affected side of the joint. It is this motion which offers a reduction in pain to the patient and offers them the ability to remain active for longer.
The reduction of bone on bone contact can also reduce the progression of osteoarthritis and is seen by many clinicians as a means of delaying surgery and even in some cases preventing the need for surgery altogether.
It is important to note that the use of a knee brace is dependent on the type of Osteoarthritis experienced. Unicompartmental OA allows you to off-load to the unaffected side of the knee, however where OA resides on both sides then there is nowhere to off-load the pressure to and surgery is often seen as the only remedy.