Osteoarthritis: Why Does It Cause Knee Pain?

Osteoarthritis triggers an inflammatory process that can affect the movement capacity of the knee, while causing pain. 
Osteoarthritis: Why does it cause knee pain?

Osteoarthritis, or osteoarthritis, is a systematic, degenerative disease that can affect any joint. It often manifests itself due to wear and tear in the protective cartilage found at the ends of the bones. When it occurs in the knees, osteoarthritis causes knee pain.

Many different conditions and injuries can affect the knees. But osteoarthritis is a chronic disease that affects them the most. One of the most common forms of this disease is known as osteoarthritis of the knees. 

Its manifestation is common in middle-aged and elderly people. It is also one of the primary causes of disability.

There are several therapy and treatment methods available that can help deal with the pain. But there is no definitive cure for the underlying, progressive process. 

Why does osteoarthritis cause knee pain?

To understand why osteoarthritis causes knee pain, it is important to address what it does to the joint.

While any part of the body can be affected, there are many cases due to the deterioration of cartilage that ‘feeds’ the bones of the knee. Articular cartilage is soft and smooth. Their function is to protect the bone ends of the knee. When worn or damaged, the joint loses its ability to bend and move normally.

As this triggers an inflammatory process, it leads to episodes of chronic pain that worsen over time. If the person does not follow the treatment to slow the progression, over time they will not be able to move normally and they will suffer from much more severe symptoms.

Different types of osteoarthritis of the knees

Osteoarthritis causes knee pain depending on the stage the arthritis has reached. When a patient is diagnosed, the physician takes into account three classifications of the condition. 

A person may have the following types of osteoarthritis in the knees:

Mild arthritis in the knee

Patients with this type of arthritis only experience discomfort when they exert themselves. X-rays of patients’ knees do not show clear changes.

Moderate arthritis of the knee

In this case, there are some noticeable changes that can be seen on an X-ray. Pain episodes manifest themselves when one has been standing for too long or has exercised moderately. The symptoms appear several times a year.

Severe arthritis of the knee

When it becomes more severe, osteoarthritis of the knee causes prolonged knee pain – even after mild exertion. Patients typically experience stiffness and pain for the first 20 minutes of the day, although symptoms diminish as time goes on.

At this point, several episodes of inflammation in the knee occur. Therefore, the pain episodes are more frequent and it can affect the ability to move. Obvious signs of deterioration in the cartilage can be seen on an X-ray in these cases.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knees

Doctor operates on knee due to arthritis

Symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary depending on how impaired the cartilage is. However, the clinical manifestations are generally pain, swelling, and loss of function. The last symptom is the inability to move the knee.

Swelling, which is why arthritis causes knee pain, occurs when there is too much synovial fluid inside the joint. Since the joint does not support the affected limbs as it should, it restricts movement and reduces the person’s quality of life.  

In short, symptoms may include:

  • Pain that worsens in the morning and is reduced after the knee has been “warmed up”.
  • The feeling of stiffness after periods of inactivity.
  • Prolonged pain when bending at the knees (for example, when sitting for too long).
  • Severe pain aggravated by movement.

Why is an early diagnosis so important?

It is important to note that all forms of arthritis worsen over time. The sooner the patient is diagnosed, the better the prognosis and treatment outcome. Your doctor may recommend a series of x-rays to confirm the condition.

Bones and joints affected by severe pain

These tests can detect the extent of cartilage damage and whether the joint spacing that separates the bones of the knee has decreased.

Once the doctor has registered the stage of osteoarthritis, he or she can suggest:

  • Lifestyle changes (a healthy diet and light physical activity)
  • Physiotherapy
  • Weight loss (if the patient is overweight)
  • Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Surgery (joint replacement, which is only in severe cases)

The reason why osteoarthritis causes knee pain is, in short, the inflammatory process that comes from wear and tear in the articular cartilage. As it is a progressive disease, it is important to get diagnosed and get treatment as soon as possible. 

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