If the protective layer of joint cartilage becomes worn or damaged, this is referred to as knee arthrosis.
This can be due to a number of causes:
wear of the joint cartilage for unexplained reasons (idiopathic arthrosis)
inflammation of the joint (chronic arthritis, rheumatism)
hereditary knee joint dysplasia (knock knee or bow leg)
incorrect loading or overloading of the knee joint during work or sporting activities; accidents with knee involvement
excess weight is regarded as an adverse factor in the development and progression of gonarthrosis
Progression of knee arthrosis
In a healthy knee joint, the joint cartilage forms a smooth surface and the menisci protect the joint surfaces against friction.
In the case of knee arthrosis, damage is often first caused to the cartilaginous menisci, which can then no longer sufficiently protect the joint surfaces against pressure exerted by the weight of the body.
Over time, the joint surfaces of the femoral condyle and the tibial plateau are then also affected: the protective coating of cartilage becomes roughened at the points where the load is greatest and over the course of time wears away entirely.
Pain and restricted movement
If the joint surfaces rub against each other without a protective layer of cartilage, the person affected experiences pain. At first, the patient only experiences pain when the joint is under stress, yet over time, pain is increasingly experienced when at rest, particularly at night. The pain mainly occurs in the area of the affected knee, but can also radiate out to the thigh or the buttocks.
The knee joint also increasingly loses its mobility, until it becomes completely stiff. As a result of this, patients adopt a protective posture, which in turn causes muscle tension and pain in other areas of the body, such as the hips and back.
As the knee joint plays a key role in day-to-day activities, patients become increasingly restricted in their everyday life and their quality of life can diminish. Even getting out of bed or a chair, climbing the stairs or getting into and out of a car can become a challenge.
Pain relief options
Depending on the nature of the pain experienced, the attending doctor will firstly try conservative methods to ease the pain. These include pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication, physiotherapy, baths and packs. These help to reduce the pain and improve joint mobility. Knee arthroscopy with irrigation of the articular cavity can also bring temporary relief.
However, there is currently no sure way of recreating an intact cartilage layer in the joint and healing arthrosis. Thus, if all the measures fail to ease the pain, patients can be helped with a replacement of the diseased joint using a knee endoprosthesis.
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