It can be scary when your knee starts hurting - especially if you don't know why. We often see clients whose knee pain has started suddenly or gradually, and they're frustrated that the knee pain doesn't go away on its own. One question, especially among middle-aged or advanced-aged clients, is whether the pain is from arthritis.
Our physiotherapists are highly trained professionals with the skills to figure out whether your pain is arthritis, or something else. They'll rely on their experience and judgement to come to a diagnosis, and take into account each client's unique history and their broader health. But here are the main factors they will look for when diagnosing knee osteoarthritis:
- Is the knee pain persistent?
- Do you feel "crepitus"? This is a creaky-feeling in the joint, that is sometimes accompanied by noise.
- Is the knee stiff and sore first in the morning, but then it tends to feel better within 30 minutes of getting out of bed and moving around?
- Does the knee bend or straighten less than normal? Figuring out a person's "normal" knee bending and straightening can be done by considering how far the other knee moves (assuming the other knee is healthy). We can also compare the knee range to what is typical among most people: that's knee bending of a maximum of 135 degrees and knee straightening to fully straight or hyperextending up to 10 degrees.
- Are the knee bones larger than expected? In particular, we're looking for enlargement of the bottom knobs of the femur (thigh) bone and the top sides of the tibia (the shin bone) - see diagram for photos of those bones.
- Are you 40 years or older?
- Is your knee pain stopping you from doing an activity you want to do, or need to do, such as climbing stairs or playing sports?
If the answer is 'yes' to all these questions, it is likely that the knee pain is the result of arthritis. And we likely don't need any imaging (such as X-Rays) to confirm the arthritis. But every person is different, and your physiotherapist will consider your unique health 'story' as they talk to you about what they think is happening to your knee.
If you do have arthritis, we can help! Our physiotherapists work with your doctor to help you reduce your pain and get you back to your active lifestyle. We have many drug-free tools to improve arthritis symptoms, including hands-on techniques, acupuncture, electrotherapy, and custom exercise programs.
Exercise is one of the most powerful tools for tackling arthritis, since exercise can reduce the pain from arthritis and improve how you move. But a good exercise program does need to be customized to you by a trained professional.
At River East Physiotherapy, we treat arthritis in one-on-one sessions, and we also offer group classes for knee and hip conditions, including arthritis.
Not sure if physiotherapy is right for you? Call us to arrange a free, 15-minute phone consultation with a physiotherapist.