How to treat degenerative arthritis

Degenerative arthritis can be particularly painful when it affects the knee joint. Here’s how it can be treated

By Dr Rajeev K Sharma

Degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis is caused by inflammation, breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of the joints. Its severity varies with the advancing age as well as it effects are different in different individuals. The changes in joints take place without being visible to the eyes; hence accepting them can be difficult. This may also happen because of rheumatic disease or as a result of fracture through the joint.

Osteoarthritis commonly affects the hands, feet, spine, and large weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. Most cases of osteoarthritis have no known cause. Obesity or being overweight is a risk factor for knee osteoarthritis which is most commonly seen in women.

The knee joint comes under extra strain

  • While walking and bearing weight
  • Inward bending leads to deformity of knee, which is common due to genetic predisposition

Common symptoms of knee arthritis

  • Pain and swelling
  • Locking and instability of knee joint
  • Stretching of ligaments

Initially there may be joint stiffness, usually lasting more than 15 minutes, and relieved with rest. It is usually better in the morning, and it worsens as the day progresses. In case of arthritis, there is usually some mild joint swelling and tenderness to touch. The joint may also feel warm but a joint that cracks and snaps does not necessarily mean arthritis is present.

The treatment of arthritic knees starts with

  • Weight reduction
  • Avoiding squatting, kneeling or sitting on the floor
  • Reducing stair climbing
  • Use of wedges in shoes
  • Occasional use of pain relieving medicines
  • Undergoing physiotherapy

Taking painkiller tablets is not a good solution as they may lead to problems while walking, and disruption in performing daily activities comfortably. Excess consumption also increases the risk of gastric ulcers and kidney damage.

Surgery is considered when arthritis is moderate to severe and when joint wear is visible on an X-ray. Arthritis is a manageable but a planned and judicious treatment is important and early diagnosis and treatment is the key to success.

Times Wellness Workshop on “Handling Knee pain” with yoga demonstration will be held on 26th February’10 at Apollo Hospital, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi at 3:30 pm. Call 011 - 23782396, 23782765.

To register mail

Pic: Keenan Milligan

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Dr Rishma Pai


She is a consultant gynaecologist at Jaslok and Lilavati Hospital.

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