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Understanding the 4 Stages of Knee Osteoarthritis

Posted by Ann V. On 2016 Aug 26th

Understanding the 4 Stages of Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee is one of the joints commonly affected by osteoarthritis or wear-and-tear arthritis. Osteoarthritis is divided into four stages, ranging from normal and healthy knee to one that is critically damaged.

Osteoarthritis or wear-and-tear arthritisis the most common knee problem in the USA. It is the condition when the natural “cushion” between joints and cartilage wears away, allowing the bones under the cartilage rub together. It leads to pain, swelling, stiffness, decreased knee mobility and even bone deterioration.

Apart from knees, osteoarthritis occurs in other weight bearing joints like hips and spine. It also affects the joints of the neck, the hands and even finger.

Osteoarthritis only confines to the joint areas and doesn’t spread to the other parts of the body.

What Cause Knee Osteoarthritis?

  • Knee injury or physical strain
  • Overweight which apply great weight on the knees
  • Being female, as women are more prone to osteoarthritis
  • Normal wear and tear on the joints caused by the age
  • Genetics, as some people inherit a tendency to have osteoarthritis
  • Bone deformities like malformed joints or defective cartilage

What are the Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis?

  • Sore or Stiff Knee Joints, worsening in the morning or after resting for long period of time
  • Swelling and tenderness in knees
  • Experiencing weakness in knee area
  • Experiencing difficulty to bend or straighten the knee
  • Facing difficulty while climbing stairs, walking etc.

See your physician immediately if you have joint pain or swelling that doesn’t go away.

What are The Stages of Knee Osteoarthritis?

Knee osteoarthritis can be categorized into four stages. Each stage has different symptoms and treatments. Stage 1 doesn’t cause excessive pain and discomfort while stage 4 is considered as the most severe OA.

Stage 1 of Knee Osteoarthritis

This is very initial stage of the knee osteoarthritis. Generally, a person feels no pain or discomfort due to the less wear on the knee joint.

Treatment: At this stage, you are not required to undergo any major treatment. You must stay active and avoid excessive pressure on the knee. Knee strengthening exercises are beneficial atthis stage. Besides, you are advised to maintain a healthy lifestyle and right diet to increase your bone density. If you are obese, you must reduce your weight to save your knees from bearing excessive weight.

Stage 2 of Knee Osteoarthritis

Stage 2 is also considered as the “mild stage” of osteoarthritis. However, you start experiencing signs of knee OA at this time. You may feel pain after a long day of walking or running or having stiff joint when it’s put on the rest for longer, or experiencing tenderness while bending or kneeling.

Bone spur growth will start to take place, though the cartilage remains unaffected. There is a normal space between your bones while bones are not rubbing against each other. A knee area still generates synovial fluid to prevent friction and increase mobility.

Treatment: Although Stage 2 of OA is mild, you must take the symptoms seriously. It is a time to see your physician. Some OTC medications like Tylenol or Ibuprofen soothes the pain. If you are overweight, you should try to lose your weight to avoid getting the pressure on the knee areas. Do workouts like low impact aerobics, strength training, and even walking to increase the strength of your muscles around joint area. Consider using braces and wraps before involving in any physical activity.

Avoid kneeling, squatting or jumping to avoid exertion on your joints.

Stage 3 of Knee Osteoarthritis

Stage 3 OA is termed as moderate OA. At this time, the cartilage between bones begins to narrow and is vulnerable to damage. It is resulted as frequent pain and discomfort while walking, running, kneeling or bending. Besides, a person has stiff joints after sitting for longer or while waking up in the morning. Joint swelling may occur after long periods of motion.

Treatment: Stage 3 OA is critical than the previous stages. Your physician can prescribe you pain killers like oxycodone, codeine or proxyphene, which is the first line of treatment at this stage. However, these medications are not ideal for long term use.

The other treatment option is a Cortisone injection, which is used when non pharmacological therapies don’t work. Cortisone is a steroid which is produced naturally by the body and is proven to minimize the pain when injected near the affected part. However, prolong use of cortisone can worsen the joint problem. Both of these treatments are efficient for some time, however, healthy lifestyle, diet, exercising and using OA knee brace are required to manageknee osteoarthritis.

Stage 4 of Knee Osteoarthritis:

Stage 4 is the most severe stage of OA and comes with the signs like pain and discomfort when you walk or move the joint. This is due to the reduced spaces between bones while cartilage wears away completely. It leads to the joint stiffness and immobility as well. At this stage, knee area is not able to produce the required amount of synovial fluid to prevent the friction among the moving parts of a joint.

TreatmentBone realignment or osteotomy is the only option for the person with Stage 4 OA. This surgical procedure involves the cutting/removing or adding a wedge of bone to your upper shinbone or lower thighbone to shift the weight of your body from the weakest or damaged parts of the knee joint. However, it is recommended for younger patients. Total knee replacement is another surgical option for stage 4 OA. During this surgery, a surgeon replaces the damaged joint with plastic and metal device.

So, these were the 4 stages of knee osteoarthritis. Besides taking medications, self-management is essential to make difference in OA signs. While exercises and losing weight is essential, you can try heat and cold therapies to manage pain. Besides, you can use OTC pain creams, numbing creams and gels to get relief from the knee pain.