Understanding knee pain and arthritis

Chronic knee pain is one of the most common complaints among adults. In fact, about 1 in 10 adults over the age of 60 suffer from knee osteoarthritis, a condition that can have significant repercussions for a person’s mobility and quality of life.

Anyone can experience knee pain. As people get older, the general wear and tear associated with activities like walking, bending and lifting can cause aches and discomfort. Although this wear and tear can affect anyone, runners and athletes may be more likely to suffer from knee problems. In particular, those who play sports that involve jumping or quick pivots may be more prone to knee injuries. Whatever the cause, knee pain can be debilitating.

What is osteoarthritis?

People with osteoarthritis experience a breakdown in joint cartilage. While this breakdown can occur anywhere, it’s most common at the hip, spine or knee.

When cartilage is healthy, it serves as a shock absorber between the bones of a joint. This soft, rubbery material normally covers the ends of both bones that connect at the joint. However, if this cartilage wears away, the tendons and ligaments of a joint may become overstretched. Or, worse, the joint bones may rub against each other, causing severe discomfort.

Understanding osteoarthritis symptoms

The most well-known symptom of knee osteoarthritis is pain in and around the knee joint. The type and severity of this pain can vary between patients. However, symptoms typically include:

  • Pain that worsens after sleeping, resting or sitting for long periods
  • Pain that flares following intense activity
  • Pain that causes weakness in the knees

Patients might also experience stiffness, limited mobility, swelling, inflammation, buckling or cracking of the joints.

Osteoarthritis causes and prevention

For some people, age and family history are the most significant risk factors for developing osteoarthritis. Other causes could include overuse, previous fractures or previous surgeries where cartilage was removed.

Obesity can also contribute to osteoarthritis development. For this reason, one of the best strategies both for preventing arthritis and managing arthritis pain is consistent exercise. Aim for low-impact activities that still boost the heart rate, such as walking, strength training, yoga or swimming.

Rheumatoid arthritis versus osteoarthritis

While osteoarthritis is associated with a breakdown of cartilage, rheumatoid arthritis is associated with inflammation. Normally, the lining of the joints, or synovium, keeps the joints lubricated. When a person has rheumatoid arthritis, this lining becomes inflamed, leading to stiffness, pain and swelling.

Rheumatoid arthritis is less common than osteoarthritis, affecting only about 1 in 100 Americans, but is more common in women than men. For rheumatoid arthritis, a doctor may recommend medication, cortisone injections or physical therapy to manage pain and decrease inflammation.

Virtual visits with orthopedics

Select patients can see our providers online from their home or office by using our Virtual Visit platform. This service allows you a fast, secure and easy way to receive care from the healthcare team in a live virtual visit using your phone or computer. The benefits of choosing a virtual visit include no travel or parking, less waiting, significant time savings, and the convenience of seeing your physician from wherever you choose. Learn more

Questions about knee pain and arthritis?

If you have questions about your knee pain or if you are wondering if you are candidate for knee replacement surgery, call our nurse navigator Kathryn Harada today. Kathryn brings a passion for helping patients learn about knee pain and what steps they can take to get back to a pain-free life. To speak with Kathryn about your situation, call (805) 955-6233 or fill out the form below.

MEET OUR NURSE NAVIGATOR
Kathryn Harada, BSN, BA, RN, PHN, CNOR


To speak with our nurse navigator, fill out the form below:

Personal Information







* Required fields. By providing your details, you agree to receive communications such as annual appointment reminders, health education materials, event information, etc. from Adventist Health. For more information, you can read our legal and privacy policies in the footer below.