Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of knee pain in people over the age of 50. This type of early arthritis is mainly caused by wear and tear to the cartilage that lines the knee joint, leading to the bones rubbing directly against one another.

Worn cartilage can cause pain, swelling, weakness, limited movement and difficulty with every day activities, such as walking and going up and downstairs. If you start to feel stiffness or pain in any joints for more than two weeks, it is advisable to see your GP. Treatment will depend on the severity of the disease.

Reassuringly, consultant knee surgeon Mr Jonathan Webb advises, “The process of cartilage breakdown in the knee joint may be delayed through physiotherapy, which will keep the knee mobile and the muscles strong, preserving the function of the joint. Physiotherapy can be extremely helpful if the patient is struggling to straighten the knee fully or has just an isolated area of arthritis behind the kneecap.”

Mr Webb advises, “Before embarking on activities such as a long walk or a round of golf, occasional painkillers or an anti-inflammatory can be useful. For higher impact sports, such as skiing, the use of a knee brace or specially fitted insoles can help. Depending on the extent of the damage to the knee, simple keyhole surgery to tidy up any torn cartilage may be possible. As symptoms worsen, more extensive surgery, including joint replacement, is often the best option.”

New Knee for Horse Rider Emma

At 51, horse rider Emma Lawton was told she was too young for a new knee by her local hospital in Wiltshire. Emma persisted for four years to be referred to an NHS knee specialist, however when the long awaited appointment arrived, the consultant actively discouraged her from seeking treatment, saying it was unlikely to be successful. Many years previously, Emma had seen Mr Jonathan Webb, so said she turned her back on the NHS and contacted Mr Webb herself at the Nuffield Health Joint Replacement Centre Bristol. Emma is absolutely delighted with her total knee replacement that she received at The Chesterfield in May.

Emma, says, “My new knee is fantastic and my surgeon, Mr Webb, was simply wonderful! He has such a reassuring manner and gives you total trust and confidence in what he is doing. After four years of being in constant pain and becoming used to my disability, he has made me feel like a proper working human again. My knee was a challenging case, as I had already undergone knee surgery nearly 20 years earlier when I snapped my cruciate ligament, had suffered knee joint infection and septic arthritis, so basically my knee was shot. I am a very active person and wouldn’t accept the NHS verdict that a knee replacement wouldn’t work and potentially amputation would result. At the Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, Mr Webb explained what he would do, shaving off part of the knee cap before inserting the new knee prosthesis. When he came in to see me after the operation, he told me how gnarly my knee had been and what he had done to make it good.”

“I threw myself into post operative weekly physiotherapy and exercised for two hours a day to rehabilitate my knee. I wasn’t going to let the expert surgery go to waste! It was definitely worth raiding my piggybank to pay for the operation, as it has given me back my life. Beforehand it was a total trial of endurance to ride. Now I can ride, lead my horse, exercise at the gym and walk my two dogs in comfort and with confidence.”

Surgeon Jonathan Webb says, “I am thrilled that we have been able to help Ms Lawton return to her active life. She was very motivated to get the best from her knee replacement and has done very well indeed.”

For more information, please ring 0117 906 4870 or see www.nuffieldhealth.com/hospitals/bristol

Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital The Chesterfield, 3 Clifton Hill, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1BN nuffieldhealth.com/hospitals/bristol