Osteoarthritis is a common condition that afflicts the hands, knees, and hips of millions of people. Arthritis occurring in the knee can be particularly problematic as its progression leads to knee pain and a loss of function and disability as it advances. Arthritis in the knee is diagnosed in four different stages, with Stage 0 indicating no incidence of arthritis (or very little) – up to stage 4 – which is the most severe. Unfortunately, statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the number of people enduring knee pain from arthritis is on the rise. One in two people are likely to develop arthritis in the knee during their lifetime and the impact on society is significant as health, economic costs, and workplace productivity are all heavily impacted by debilitating knee conditions brought about by knee arthritis. If you are interested in learning more about the stages of knee arthritis, keep reading.
The focus for knee arthritis should always be on the symptoms and not what shows up on the x-ray. In a lot of cases, even small changes in the development of knee arthritis can equate to extreme levels of pain. Most incidences of knee osteoarthritis (OA) are caused by wear-and-tear as we age, but another form of knee OA is referred to as secondary knee arthritis, which can affect younger individuals and usually develops between the ages of 45-50. A variety of factors can influence the onset of secondary knee OA such as injury, inactivity, joint weakening, or genetics.
The Four Stages of Knee Arthritis
Stage 0 – No Signs
This is when there are no signs of knee arthritis present, or if any, very little. Usually there is no sign of pain or discomfort, so there is no reason for any treatment.
Stage 1 – Minor Signs
In this stage, patients are displaying minor signs of wear and tear in the knee. There will also be small spur growths on the ends of the joints. Stage 1 patients rarely report any levels of pain or discomfort and possess normal mobility. Most physicians will not recommend any type of treatment for Stage 1 patients but will continue to monitor the situation.
Chondroitin and glucosamine are two supplements which may help promote overall bone health. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, which does not overuse the knee, may also be of benefit as will employing regular exercises designed to strengthen the knee.
Stage 2 – Mild Symptoms
Bone spur growth will continue, and symptoms will start to become apparent. Cartilage should remain at a healthy density though, and synovial fluid is still present, so the bones will not rub against each other. However, there may be some apparent tenderness.
A consultation with your doctor is recommended in Stage 2. Over the counter pain medication may be prescribed for some relief from the tenderness. Aerobics, strength training, and walking are all excellent strategies for strengthening the muscles supporting the knee.
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Stage 3 – Moderate Symptoms
The erosion of the cartilage is starting to become evident in stage three knee arthritis sufferers, and the gap between the bones is narrowing. As the bones begin to rub against each other, the damage starts to increase. Stage 3 patients start to experience more pain and discomfort during regular daily activity and sitting for long periods causes the knees to stiffen. During Stage 3 it is critical to use exercises assigned to you by your doctor and maintain a healthy diet. Your doctor may prescribe stronger levels of pain medication, or recommend a cortisone injection.
Stage 4 – Severe Symptoms
Space between the bones has been significantly reduced. Cartilage is being worn off and leaving the joint stiff. A chronic inflammatory response develops in response to the low levels of cartilage and when combined with low levels of synovial fluid the level of friction between the bones increases. Stairs, walking, or any movement of the knee is the source of a lot of pain and discomfort for Stage 4 knee arthritis patients. Synovial metalloproteinase, TNF, and cytokine production levels ramp up, which then diffuse back into the cartilage and cause further degradation. Options for treatment include surgery for bone realignment or total knee replacement.
A Few Tips On How To Manage The Pain
Regardless of the stage you are in, there will be times when the pain seems to be more present than others. The good news is that there are ways to manage some of the pain. Some of the popular choices, some of which we already mentioned above, include:
- R.I.C.E – The Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation technique which involves, resting your knee when things start to get tender, following by icing and compressing your knee to get some relief from the inflammation, combined with Elevating your knee to prevent excess fluid from building up in your knee. A popular choice for icing your knee is SimplyJnJ’s Knee Cold Therapy Wrap with compression, which we showcased above.
- The use of supplements such as Chondroitin and Glucosamine – The first is known to help stimulate healthy cartilage naturally, and also helps with tissue recovery after exercise. The second is a polular choice for healthy joint maintenance.
- A knee sleeve/brace specifically designed for those with arthritis – Although they will not cure your arthritis, they can definitely take the edge off the pain during physical activities or days when things aren’t going your way. Click here to see some of the popular arthritis knee braces available in our Shop.
We’re not experts on arthritis here at TBKB, nor are we health care professionals. The information on the stages of knee arthritis mentioned today, was done so for information purposes only. However, we care deeply about the subject of knee pain and like to share information that we’ve gathered over the years and also tips and tricks on how to manage the pain. If you have some tricks up your sleeve when it comes to managing your knee arthritis, we’d love to hear from you. Just use the comment box below. Until next time!