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Treating Osteoarthritis

I have recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee. My doctor showed me on x-ray how bad my knee looks and why I'm having pain. I received an injection and I was told to decrease my activities for 3-4 weeks. I'm pretty healthy for my age and would like to avoid the use of long term medication and or surgery. I want to stay active. What treatment options do I have now that I have osteoarthritis (OA)?

It's very important for you to know that osteoarthritis in your knee is not the only reason why you have persistent knee joint pain. What your physician or orthopedist doesn't tell you is that there are other leg and knee factors that can cause or contribute to your knee pain. Before I go into more detail about other knee pain factors, I will briefly explain osteoarthritis, progression, and how you can help slow and reduce your knee pain naturally, without medications and surgery, while still remaining active.

The most common way to visualize and diagnose osteoarthritis is by taking an x-ray of the knee. The X-ray film can show knee cartilage degeneration, subchondral bone scaring or cracks, joint space narrowing and boney formations internally or externally in or around the knee joint. You may be told that your knee pain is being generated from these boney changes and deforming the knee joint that may eventually get worse. You wonder: when will it worsen? How bad will it really get? Is there anything I can do to slow the progression?

Osteoarthritis is not a condition that will worsen in 6 months. Research studies have concluded that degeneration can occur over many years. And while degeneration will eventually occur, the pain you experiencing around your knee can be a result of other muscle and soft tissue factors that your doctor or specialist doesn't even discuss with you. For example, pain in and around your knee can really be caused by muscle weakness in the leg, hips or ankle. Muscle weakness can lead to knee joint instability; knee stiffness; poor back, hip and leg flexibility, and/or poor walking pattern due to knee pain guarding.

All of these factors can create and contribute to the reason why your knee is in so much pain. Pain over time wears on you physically and mentally. Eventually, you become desperate for relief. But as I said previously, your health provider doesn't tell you about other musculo-skeletal factors that can cause you to have knee pain. The reason why your physicians don't tell you this is because many don't take the time to evaluate for other musculo-skeletal deficiencies that might just be the primary reason(s) for your knee pain. How many of you get referred to physical therapy?

Osteoarthritis can be treated successfully. It can be treated successfully without pain medications, steroid or visco-supplementation injections or surgery. A good examination of your hip, knee and leg can identify other contributing factors for increased knee pain. A Doctor of physical therapy can give you an in-depth evaluation of all possible musculo-skeletal problems to help resolve some or a majority of your knee pain problems. Remember this - a diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis by your health care provider is not the only thing contributing to or causing your knee pain. There are natural ways to decrease and even eliminate your knee pain.

A thorough musculo-skeletal evaluation of your low back, hip, knee, ankle and walking pattern needs to be performed. When other factors are identified, for example muscle weakness, joint stiffness or muscle trigger points, these can be addressed with various natural healing treatments. These treatments include joint mobilization, correcting postural alignment or faults, manual therapy techniques for flexibility and stiffness, vacuum compression for increase blood flow, trigger point dry needling, soft tissue work, acupressure, resistive strengthening, and so forth. Complementary therapies are natural treatments that are very effective when used appropriately with the knee pain diagnosis. The therapist will also teach you how to be an active partner with your care, providing you with knee precautions and a home exercise program.

If you have Osteoarthritis of the knee, hip or shoulders and you have not seen a physical therapist for your pain problem I highly recommend you make an appointment today. If you have seen a therapist and you were not satisfied, don't give up -- see another therapist who will spend the time and work with you on your pain problem. Your knee pain evaluation and treatment should include and encompass your hip, knee and ankle for postural guarding and pain generators. If you have had knee pain for greater than 6 - 12 months, there is a greater likelihood that you have been "guarding" to avoid pain which can negatively affect posture, muscle strength and flexibility, creating huge muscle imbalance that will contribute to your knee pain problem. A quality evaluation and rehabilitation program will address those musculo-skeletal deficits.

With many of my patients, here at the Sports Back & Pain Management Clinic we have an 80 - 90% decrease in their knee pain after a 4-6 week rehab program. A good therapy result is a partnership between the therapist and the patient. In my professional opinion it is always prudent to try natural solutions before, or in addition to, pain medication -- and certainly long before any surgery. Another important component of a structured rehab program is teaching you self-management skills for possible future pain episodes. Once the pain generators have improved and the neuromuscular system has been corrected and strengthened, your mind-set and quality of life will change for the better. You can be active again but with some limitations. It's important that physical activity remain a part of your daily routine during rehab and after. Give physical therapy a chance before subjecting yourself to prolong medication use, injections and eventually surgery.

If you are in search of treating your pain and want a pain-free life, contact my clinic at 979-776-2225 to set up an appointment. I promise you that physical therapy can change your life for the better.

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