Do your knees ache, click, or get stiff? Have you been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis? If so, then you may already know how important it is to address knee pain early. Waiting too long can lead to a host of negative health and lifestyle effects that could have been avoided with earlier intervention.
What is Knee Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints and bones begins to break down. More than thirty million Americans live with osteoarthritis, making it a leading cause of disability among adults. Knees are the most common area affected by osteoarthritis and the risks of developing knee OA increase significantly between the ages of 55 and 64.
It’s critical not to ignore the symptoms of knee OA. Seeking intervention as soon as possible can avoid complications, worsening of symptoms and other effects. Taking the initiative and choosing an appropriate treatment may help get you back to your daily activities and prevent knee OA from interrupting your regular life.
What Happens if I Delay Treatment for Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
While seeking appropriate treatments for knee OA may not be at the top of your to-do list, delaying treatment can be costly. Here are 12 Hidden Costs Of Delaying Treatment For Knee OA.
1) Irreparable knee damage
Ignoring symptoms of knee OA or delaying treatment can lead to irreparable knee damage. The knee may become deformed by anatomical changes and you may experience loss of joint range of motion. This loss of motion is also called flexion contracture, where the knee cannot be completely straightened. An estimated one-third of people with knee OA develop flexion contracture. Finally, non-intervention can lead to muscle weakness and atrophy.
2) Needing knee surgery earlier in life
One high hidden cost of delaying treatment for knee OA is that it increases the risk that you will require knee surgery later in life. This is a last resort intervention and it is possible to avoid it through early attention—for example, by using a biomechanical treatment such as AposTherapy to reduce friction and progression of symptoms. An additional cost is that if you do undergo knee surgery, without having done conservative management, recovery time may be prolonged due to muscle weakness and anatomical changes.
3) The pain will likely continue to increase
It is likely that failing to address osteoarthritis of the knee will lead to more pain as the cartilage further wears down. Medication for pain will not address the underlying cause, rather adequate treatment should be the first course of action.
4) Weight gain
Another side effect of avoiding activity due to knee pain is weight gain (which is also associated health risks). It’s important to maintain safe activity to keep the knee healthy and well supported by surrounding muscles. This also helps keep you fit. When osteoarthritis of the knee is ignored, one of the costs is not being able to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. This is causes people to gain more weight, therefore putting even more pressure on the already painful joint. Biomechanical aides like AposTherapy can keep you active and help address the underlying osteoarthritis.
5) Decreased quality of life
With pain and decreased function comes a decreased quality of life. When regular everyday activities become difficult and even simple movements cause pain, this hidden cost keeps people from enjoying the things they love to do. Using biomechanical aides such as AposTherapy can improve quality of life.
The Arthritis Foundation lists depression as a disorder concurrent with arthritis. Mental health can be exacerbated by the costs of unaddressed knee OA and depression, in turn, is associated with worsening symptoms of arthritis. Depression, fear of pain and anxiety have been associated with chronic pain. Getting help for the pain and swelling and getting back to your regular routine can help mitigate this risk.
7) Missing out
It is hard to keep going when your ability to walk, run, or even sit, are compromised by osteoarthritis of the knee. Staying in and missing priceless family and community events, sports and other recreational activities is an additional hidden cost of delaying treatment for knee OA.
8) Missed workdays
As a leading cause of disability among American adults, arthritis is associated with significant work limitations, including absences from work because of arthritis symptoms and not being able to perform tasks required for the job. This, in turn, can lead to loss of income and other negative effects than, in turn, can lead to a decreased quality of life and even depression.
9) Increased cost toward more frequent treatments that only provide temporary pain relief
As symptoms progress and pain worsens for knee OA sufferers, the associated treatments become less effective and more invasive. Furthermore, the more the disease progresses, the less effective non-invasive treatments are likely to be.
10) Effects on health from lack of activity
As mentioned, osteoarthritis of the knee is associated with limitation of physical activity and, therefore, of weight gain. This weight gain can have a very negative impact on overall health, especially cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading source of death globally and much of its prevalence is due to obesity. It is important to nip knee pain in the bud so that you can get moving again—for your heart and not just for your knees.
11) Stress on family life
Pain and healthcare costs can put a lot of strain on personal relationships due to being unable to participate in family and social activities. With osteoarthritis of the knee associated both with worsening pain and increasing health care expenses, one of the more harmful hidden costs of delaying treatment is stress on family life.
12) Side-effects of medical treatments for pain relief
While early intervention, for example, biomechanical treatments, can spare you the need for more serious treatments down the line, delaying treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee is associated with the need for more aggressive pain relief treatments—drug interventions in particular. NSAIDs, opioids and steroid injections are associated with serious side-effects, including organ damage, addiction and others. Plus, these do not work for longer periods of time, making them ineffective for a chronic condition like knee OA.
What are Good Treatments for Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
Physical therapy, exercise and strength training can provide positive results for knee OA patients before the condition becomes too severe. However, these require the patient to interrupt their daily routine and strictly adhere to an exercise program.
If a patient’s life becomes inhibited by knee OA pain, doctors will often recommend knee replacement surgery. Knee replacement surgery has shown good results in pain relief and improvement of function, however this treatment option can be costly and may require significant recovery time.
Another approach to treating osteoarthritis of the knee is AposTherapy. Similar to other non-invasive treatments, the sooner knee OA is diagnosed and treated with AposTherapy, the better the outcome will be for the patient. Even at later stages of disease progression, AposTherapy is clinically proven to help and is much easier for patients to use while carrying on with their regular daily life. For patients who are already candidates for surgery, AposTherapy can have a positive effect and can be done at home without any interruption to one’s daily routine.
A final thought about knee OA treatment
Whichever treatment you choose to use, start early and stay consistent. Being proactive can get your pain under control and keep it that way.