To understand arthritis, it first helps to understand the basic biology of the knee joint. The knee is made up of three bones: the femur (thigh bone), tibia (leg bone), and patella (kneecap). At the places where the three bones rub against each other, they are covered by a spongy yet durable cushion called cartilage. The cartilage is extremely resilient, and will protect the bones and allow for pain-free motion for most of us for our entire lives. However, for some, the cartilage will wear out and erode and and the underlying bone will become exposed. This absence, or loss, of the cartilage, is the definition of arthritis. Lacking the protection from the cartilage, the exposed bone can rub together and this can create inflammation. When your joint is inflamed, you will feel pain, swelling, and stiffness. Occasionally, you might feel your leg give out underneath you. This is usually due to weakness of the muscles across the knee.
As of right now, we do not have a reliable way to cure arthritis. (However, medical science is advancing every day and we are getting closer to reversing arthritis. See the page on platelet rich plasma!) We don't have a reliable way to make the cartilage defects heal and fill in. The good news though is that we have lots of tools to help with the symptoms of arthritis, mainly pain. These can include maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and strengthening of the muscles of the leg. When these don't work enough though, you can consider more invasive techniques such as steroid injections, gel type injections, platelet rich plasma, or even surgery. To find out if you might be a candidate for these techniques, make an appointment with Dr. Jeffers to discuss your personalized recommendations.
To learn about more about knee osteoarthritis, click the links below. You will be taken to OrthoInfo, a website sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopaedics.