The 4 Stages of Knee Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most commonly diagnosed type of joint arthritis disease. It can affect the hands, knees, and hips. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that more and more people are suffering from knee pain each year. They found that one in two people will develop symptomatic knee osteoarthritis at some point in their life. This will impact one’s health, work efficiency, and economic costs. It is estimated that 67 million Americans will suffer from knee osteoarthritis by 2030.
When the cartilage in the knee beings to degenerate, people experience pain, stiffness, and tenderness. As the cartilage continues to decrease, the bone surface can eventually be affected as well. Knee arthritis can affect the joint’s functionality which can ultimately lead to disability. It can affect anyone, but it is most common in the elderly and obese. Knee osteoarthritis is divided into four stages, from normal to severe, and there are many knee joint treatment options.
In stage 0, the knee is considered normal and healthy. The knee shows no signs of osteoarthritis, the joint functions without any problems. Treatments aren’t necessary during this stage.
In stage 1, very minor bone spur growth will begin to show. Bone spurs are boney growths that develop where bones meet in the joint. Usually, one will not experience any pain during this stage, but will be wearing out components of the joint.
Sometimes doctors might recommend supplements or exercise to someone in stage 1 if they are at a high risk. This could help slow down the progression and relieve any minor symptoms.
Stage 2 osteoarthritis is considered the “mild” stage. During this stage, doctors can start to see significant signs of wear on the joints. X-rays help give a clear view of bone lump growth and slightly thinning cartilage. Usually at this point, the bones aren’t rubbing together yet. Doctors also still find synovial fluid in the joints, which is healthy for joint movement.
On the other hand, people usually begin to experience some of the symptoms during this stage – whether it be pain from a long day on their feet, stiffness from sitting for a long period of time, or tenderness from bending down.
At such an early stage, some patients find over the counter medications like Tylenol beneficial for temporary relief. Some other early treatments are staying active and avoiding pressure on the knee. Those who are overweight should turn towards a healthier lifestyle with diet and exercise to strengthen the joints and muscles. Losing weight is an easy way to lessen the pressure on the knees. Running can be hard on your knees, so try swimming, walking, or using the elliptical machines. If you experience any pain while exercising, knee braces and wraps are very helpful.
Stage 3 is the “moderate” stage of knee osteoarthritis. Now, patients might start to experience more pain and discomfort throughout their normal day-to-day activities. This is the stage where the cartilage between the bones starts to thin out. It is essential to stay as active as you can to keep your joints healthy and active. Don’t forget to wear a knee brace or wrap if you need some relief.
There are a couple options your doctor might discuss with you at this point. One option is pain medication like codeine, oxycodone, or propoxyphene. These medications aren’t meant for long-term use because some people could get dependent on them. A cortisone injection is another option. Cortisone is a steroid that the body naturally produces, and the doctor injects it near the affected joint.
Those who don’t respond well to conservative treatments, like physical therapy or weight loss, could be good candidates for viscosupplementation. Viscosupplements are intra-articular injections of hyaluronic acid. A typical treatment consists of one to five injections given one week apart, but some treatments are available in a single-dose injection. The results take time and aren’t immediate. Some people might not see results for several weeks, but it is meant to provide relief for at least a few months. However, not everyone’s body will respond to these injections, so it is best to discuss it with your doctor.
Stage 4 osteoarthritis is the “severe” stage. Now, the cartilage is almost completely gone, and the joint is stiff and possibly immobile. The synovial fluid has also decreased drastically, and it can no longer help lessen the friction between the moving joints. Patients experience extreme pain and discomfort.
A common treatment is bone realignment surgery (osteotomy). During this procedure, the surgeon will remove the damaged joint and replace it with a plastic and metal device. Some side effects are infections and blood clots. The recovery process is between several weeks or months. It also requires extensive physical and occupational therapy. Keep in mind that this isn’t a permanent option. You might need additional surgeries or even another knee replacement eventually, but with the newer devices, it could last for decades.
Another option is total knee replacement (arthroplasty). However, this surgery is usually a last resort option, and is considered for extreme cases of knee osteoarthritis.
Luckily, today’s medical advancements are giving patients more treatment options and getting them back to their normal routine even faster. Stem cell therapy is a viable option for many cases, especially treating those with knee osteoarthritis. Using the patients’ very own stem cells to regrow their tissue is a safe, natural, and non-surgical treatment option.
Stem Cell Therapy
Dealing with knee osteoarthritis is a pain, and finding an effective knee joint treatment can be stressful. However, some of the world’s leading research institutions have learned the effectiveness of using stem cells to treat knee osteoarthritis. From the laboratory to clinical observations, doctors are proving that stem cells are capable of regenerating damaged bone, cartilage, and soft tissue of ligaments and tendons to repair even severely damaged knees. This could provide an alternative to knee replacements.
The doctors at Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and China’s Cellular Biomedicine Group found that just one single injection of stem cells have proven to be effective because the new stem cells remained active for 10 weeks. They also learned that this extended duration stay is essential for stem cells to exert their functions on promoting joint regeneration and cartilage protection.
Other orthopedic doctors at Medical College of Shihezi University in China found that the patients they treated experienced long-term relief of their symptoms. The knee joint treatments showed continual effectiveness for 24 months in their patients.
If you are experiencing knee pain or know someone who is, one of the best places to go for knee joint treatment is right here in San Antonio, Texas. Visit us at the Stem Cell Orthopedic Institute of Texas.