When you experience a traumatic knee injury, it can significantly increase your risk of developing post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA). Unfortunately, many of those who do develop PTOA go on to require joint replacement surgery.
Understanding the link between knee trauma and PTOA offers an opportunity to work towards delaying or preventing its onset. Here, we explore what causes knee arthritis after an injury, preventative measures you can take, and how to treat it.
What causes knee arthritis after an injury?
After a knee injury, arthritis can develop due to damage to the knee’s cartilage or bone. These injuries can range from ligament tears to fractures, or damage to the meniscus.
These traumas disrupt the knee’s normal biomechanics and can lead to uneven distribution of weight and stress across the joint. Over time, this irregular stress accelerates the wear and tear of the joint’s cartilage, leading to arthritis.
Inflammation plays a key role in the development of PTOA as it can cause further deterioration of the cartilage. Unlike regular arthritis, which is often related to aging, it can develop quickly after the injury.
The severity of the initial injury, the quality of initial treatment, and post-injury rehabilitation, significantly influence the likelihood of developing knee arthritis.
How to prevent arthritis after a knee injury
Preventing arthritis after a knee injury requires immediate and long-term strategies. Initially, proper medical treatment and rehabilitation of the knee are crucial. This may include physical therapy, appropriate rest, and, in some cases, surgery to repair the damage. Following a rehabilitation plan helps restore strength and stability to the knee, reducing the risk of further injury and arthritis.
Long-term prevention focuses on maintaining good knee health. Regular low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling, can strengthen the muscles around the knee, providing better support and reducing stress on the joint. Weight management is also essential, as excess weight can increase the strain on the knee.
Wearing appropriate footwear and using knee supports can also help by evenly distributing weight and eliminating excess pressure on the joint.
Treating and preventing knee arthritis
The approach to treating knee arthritis is tailored to each patient, considering factors like the type and stage of the arthritis, age, pain level, and other health conditions.
Various non-surgical methods can help alleviate pain and prevent further joint damage. These include:
- Modifying activities to avoid high-impact exercises and focusing on low-impact activities to manage symptoms.
- Undergoing physical therapy to enhance muscle strength and joint flexibility.
- Losing weight, when necessary, to lessen pressure on the joint.
- Using braces for added joint stability.
- Taking medications or receiving injections, including hyaluronic acid, for pain relief and inflammation reduction.
The effectiveness of these treatments varies, and your surgeon will create a customised treatment plan that combines these non-surgical options, suited to your specific needs and condition.
However, in some cases surgery may be required. A partial or full knee replacement can help eliminate the symptoms of the arthritis, while helping you regain mobility. It also prevents the condition from worsening.
Schedule an appointment with Mr Jonathan Webb today to determine the best treatment approach to tackle your knee arthritis.