It has been estimated that the number of people in the UK with osteoarthritis is around 8.75 million with almost half that figure suffering from knee OA. This means that a third of the population aged 45 and older have sought treatment for their condition.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition affecting the soft tissue (cartilage) which surrounds and protects the articular surface of the bones in our joints. This connective tissue acts a cushion between the bones which move together to allow movement in our joints.
As we age the normal wear and tear on our joints can gradually reduce the thickness of the cartilage. Injuries earlier in life can speed the onset of the condition.
As the protection wears away the bones begin to rub together when the joint is used. Common symptoms are pain, swelling, stiffness (especially in the morning) and a grinding sensation in the joint.
Fortunately for sufferers of osteoarthritis more and more information is becoming available online about the condition and various ways to ease the symptoms. While there is no cure for OA currently, research continues and helps provides sufferers with various approaches to reducing their symptoms.
Using the guidelines from NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) the types of treatment can be classified under four categories including self-management and non-pharmacological management.
When first diagnosed our doctor will evaluate general health, fitness and lifestyle and then offer appropriate options that we can apply ourselves to manage the condition and slow its progress.
Initial advice should focus on exercise and activities. Doctors will often recommend physiotherapy as an ongoing treatment to pursue. Unfortunately, there are no clear guidelines on when the NHS should provide this healthcare, however doctors will encourage OA sufferers to pursue this option themselves.
Physiotherapy promotes general aerobic fitness which helps to address factors like weight which can increase if OA pain starts to limit activity. Increased body weight adds to the stresses our joints experience.
Physiotherapy also increases the strength of the muscles holding and supporting the joint. A stable joint can slow the deterioration of OA.
Increasingly, research is showing that offloading knee braces are proving a very effective means of both reducing knee pain and reducing cartilage wear, which can delay the need for surgical intervention.
“Offloading” braces like the Unloader One address unicompartmental OA. The cushioning layers of cartilage within the knee may have worn down prematurely or been damaged on either the inside or outside of the joint. Alternatively, one of the shock absorbing discs of cartilage in the knee (menisci) may have thinned or been damaged.
An offloading knee brace applies gentle pressure across the knee at three points which helps spread the load more evenly over the joint and reduce the load on the affected compartment. This also reduces the amount of bone on bone contact on the affected/damaged compartment.