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Nuffield Health: Knee pain

Is knee pain stopping you doing the things you love?

We all know that keeping active is one of the key ingredients to living a healthy life. For some of us, a bad knee could be enough to prevent us from being as active as we would like. When knee pain interferes with activity, it is a sign that we should seek medical help.

A visit to an orthopaedic surgeon can help you get a diagnosis and treatment. The surgeon will determine if the pain has been caused through injury or a more long term issue, such as osteoarthritis.

Did you know:
− There are 5000 people in Bristol with severe knee arthritis.
− Of the UK’s ten ‘Core Cities’, the population of Bristol is the most physically active.
− Up to 25% of people with knee arthritis will retire early due to knee pain.
− Most knee arthritis is under-treated.

When people talk about knee arthritis, it is usually osteoarthritis to which they are referring. Arthritis means ‘joint inflammation’, and osteoarthritis is the most common form. Osteoarthritis is characterised by inflammation and ‘wear and tear’ damage to the knee. It develops over time, and can sneak up on you; when symptoms first appear much of the damage has already been done.

The process of damage and wearing out of the joint cartilage surface eventually results in bone grinding on bone in the knee, which is a painful and disabling condition.

Any of the three main parts of the knee – the medial compartment, the lateral compartment, and the patellofemoral joint (kneecap) can be affected by osteoarthritis. There are several risk factors for osteoarthritis, including your genes, lifestyle factors, previous injuries, hypermobility and obesity.

Symptoms of knee osteoarthritis

The predominant symptoms of knee arthritis are pain and stiffness, which lead to loss of mobility. Symptoms range from mild to severe. There can be a mild background ache in the knee, which might interfere with sporting activities or a long walk. In more severe cases, it can be a constant severe disabling pain, which makes walking very difficult or impossible. Pain may also be so severe that sleep can be disturbed and there is pain at rest. The normal activities of daily living may become difficult to perform.

Roughening and fragmentation of the knee joint surface may also lead to catching, clicking, clunking or similar symptoms. Swelling of the knee joint is often seen, and in severe cases, the shape of the knee may change. In the worst cases, loss of mobility can lead to poor cardio-respiratory fitness.

Treatment of knee osteoarthritis

Following a diagnosis of arthritis, you may receive some form of treatment before you see a surgeon. Non-surgical treatments may include simple painkillers, anti-inflammatory tablets, weight loss treatments, modification of activities, or physiotherapy.

If there are symptoms of mechanical locking in the knee, or stiffness, then keyhole surgery (arthroscopy) of the knee may improve this. However, knee arthroscopy treatment cannot reverse the arthritis damage.

For those patients who might be suffering with arthritis but are hoping to avoid surgery, there are less invasive, non-surgical options available, such as injection therapy. This can prove beneficial in managing joint pain to the point whereby the need for surgery is delayed or, in some instances, removed completely. Steroid injections are an example of this. Another new technique available is Platelet Rich Plasma treatment (PRP), which uses a patient’s own anti-inflammatory cells to promote the healing of injured joints.

If the arthritis is severe and you have exhausted non-operative treatment, then you may decide to proceed with a knee replacement. Knee replacement can take the form of a total or a partial (unicompartmental) replacement. The decision to proceed is made with your surgeon so that you understand the benefits and risks of each procedure.

At Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, our team of consultant orthopaedic surgeons also hold regular clinics with very short waiting times. Call our Enquiries team on the number below, who will be able to assist you in booking a consultation.

The treatments we offer for arthritis include:
− Physiotherapy
− Steroid injections
− PRP Injections
− Weight loss therapies
− Knee replacements

It doesn’t matter if you want to climb a mountain or simply prune the garden, any symptom that prevents or limits your ability to do the things you love is cause for concern. With a little help, a bad knee doesn’t have to impact your quality of life.

To book an appointment with one of our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, call 0117 911 5339, or visit our website: www.nuffieldhealth.com/hospitals/bristol