The Truth About Knee Arthritis and Cortisone Injections

Arthritis is a common chronic condition of the joints that involves the breakdown of the cartilage and the ends of the bones and inflammation of the joint lining. The disease tends to affect heavily used joints, such as those in the hands and spine, and the weight-bearing joints in the knees and hips.

For people in Greenville, knee arthritis is a reason they miss out on activities like tennis and golf, hiking, cycling, weightlifting, and family adventures.

Direct injection of corticosteroids into the joint is a standard treatment for conditions such as knee arthritis.  However, it is questionable whether or not this type of treatment is beneficial.  Current evidence shows that the improvements made are modest at best.  In addition, there is a risk that comes with these types of injections. Repeated cortisone injections could result in further degenerative changes and lead to unwanted knee replacement surgery.

According to Dr. McAlindon of the Tufts Medical Center in Boston,

“We now know that these injections bring no long-term benefit, and may, in fact, do more harm than good by accelerating damage to the cartilage.”

While steroid injections have a time and place, it should not be viewed as a solution.

If the knee hurts, there are usually other contributing factors to pain.  Weakness of the thigh, hip, and trunk muscles can lead to overloading of the tendons and bursae of the knee.  This can lead to pain in the front, inside, or back of the knee.  In addition, if the knee cannot straighten fully, it will put stress on the inside of the knee and contribute to knee pain.  If you can normalize these strength imbalances and restore movement, sustainable pain relief can be found.

Poor movement can also contribute to knee pain.  Stiffness at the ankle and insufficient lower body strength muscles will affect movement quality.  This means squatting, lunging, kneeling, stepping, and walking may further aggravate an arthritic knee.

The best to know what is contributing to your knee pain is to have an assessment performed.  Once you know if you have a strength, mobility, and/or movement problem, you can get to work.

If the knee is irritated and painful, hands-on therapy can be effective for pain relief.  Some hands-on therapy can also be performed independently with a foam roller or bands.  You can also use your own hands for simple techniques like a patellar mobilization.

If there is weakness, learning exercises to activate muscles that are not firing well is key.  Some exercises that we like for many knee conditions include the banded calf raise, hip hurdle, and leg lock bridge.  These can be found in our video library.

Once pain is controlled and muscles engage better, the next step is learning how to move properly through patterns of movement (e.g. squat, hinge, step/lunge).  Once you can practice these movements without being limited by pain, adding resistance will develop strength.  Having adequate strength can prolong the life of your knee joint for years to come even if you’ve been diagnosed with “bone-on-bone” arthritis.

However, ignoring pain may result in a decline in your knee health.  This may mean missing out on activities like exploring downtown Greenville, hiking up Paris Mountain, strolling on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, exercising in the gym, or spending quality time with your friends and family.

If you have knee arthritis and would like to overcome knee pain without medications, injections, or surgery, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to help.

We offer a free guide on relieving knee pain that can give you further insight into knee problems and help kickstart your recovery.  If you’re interested in physical therapy but have questions, we are available for a free 15-minute phone consultation so you can have answers before booking an appointment.

If you’re considering physical therapy, you can also apply for a free Discovery Visit.  This is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity, and foster confidence that we can help you.

If you want to book an appointment, you can get started with a knee pain consultation.  This will be an opportunity to determine your potential for a full recovery without invasive medical procedures.

If you’re in pain and unsure about what your next step should be, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.

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