Knee Osteoarthritis Symptoms and How To Test for Knee Osteoarthritis
If you haven’t already, I suggest you start by reading the What is Osteoarthritis page which explains what happens when you have osteoarthritis.
This is page is specifically about knee osteoarthritis symptoms (for other joints please do a search). At the bottom of the page is a test you can do which may suggest you have knee osteoarthritis. Please see a health-care professional to get correctly diagnosed as different types of arthritis are treated in different ways.
Knee osteoarthritis symptoms are common. The latest data suggests as many as 1 in 10 people older adults in the United States have knee osteoarthritis symptoms.
The knee is what is termed a 3 joint complex:
1. The main knee joint between the thigh bone (the femur) and the shin bone (the tibia).
2. The patellofemoral joint between the kneecap (the patella) and the femur.
3. The tibiofibular joint between the two lower leg bones (the tibia and fibula).
You can get osteoarthritis in any of these but it is rare in the last one.
Osteoarthritis is a wearing of the articular cartilage. This is the cushioning material that covers the end of the bones and it acts as a shock absorber and prevents friction on the bone. It has no nerve endings in it but bone does, so as the cartilage wears the joint becomes painful. In severe cases bone rubs on bone and this is the time to get a joint replacement.
Knee Osteoarthritis Symptoms
The most common of all knee osteoarthritis symptoms is pain. You usually get local pain felt in and around the knee. It is more common on the inside of the knee but can occur on either or even both side. The pain is felt when you are exercising/active and decreases/stops when you rest. The pain may spread down the inside, outside, front or back of your calf or up in the thigh as the muscles get irritated by the joint functioning incorrectly. This pain is usually as a deep ache in nature.
If the one of the knee osteoarthritis symptoms you have is pain around the knee cap on bending the knee (such as going up stairs) but not when walking on the flat you could have osteoarthritis between the kneecap and the thigh bone (patellofemoral osteoarthritis).
Another one of the common knee osteoarthritis symptoms is that you get stiffness in the morning or after sitting around for a while, but this will go on moving around. How long this lasts is a good indicator how bad your osteoarthritis is.
Your knee joint may have what is called ‘crepitus’ which means it grates and cracks. This can be one of the more alarming knee osteoarthritis symptoms but it is really gas popping inside the joint rather than your bones actually cracking
Your health-care professional will look for is a SIGN rather than a SYMPTOM (what you feel). The first thing they will look at is if your knee joint movement has decreased.
To test this try lying on your side and take hold of your ankle with the same side hand around the ankle. Your knee should stay relaxed and you should just pull with your arm and make sure you keep your thighs together (otherwise your hip is doing the work). Ideally your knee should bend so your heel touches your buttock but as long as the top of your calf touches the back of your thigh you can consider that you don’t have restriction of movement. You should have equal amount of motion in both knees (unless you have knee osteoarthritis symptoms in both knees of course!).