Dr. Zatrok's blog
Dr. Zatrok's blog

Dr. Zatrok's blog

Osteoarthritis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

by Dr. Zsolt Zatrok

Osteoarthritis (also known as arthritis) is one of the most common diseases of the knee joint. Symptoms develop slowly and can last for years or decades. Because it is a degenerative disease, there is not much they can do for you in hospital. However, your doctor may recommend home physiotherapy. You can use TENS treatment, microcurrent, therapeutic ultrasound, magnetic therapy and soft laser treatment may help you in different ways.

Your knee joint is made up of your thigh and shin bones, held together by ligaments and joint capsules. The ends of the bones are covered with articular cartilage, and the joint space is filled with a material that helps the joint to slide. But it is your leg muscles, especially your thigh muscles, that are responsible for the stability of the joint. As long as the muscles are strong, the bones of the joint are well-spaced so that the bone surfaces slide frictionlessly over each other during movement.

Cause of osteoarthritis

When the strength of the leg muscles is reduced (due to lack of movement, excess weight, surgery or illness, etc.), the bones are pressed together and the cartilage slowly deteriorates – first thinning, then the surface becomes cracked and crumbles, and finally is absorbed.

This is osteoarthritis.

When this happens, the two bones in your joint come into direct contact with each other, bone to bone. This hinders movement because they don’t slide easily. Moreover, it damages the bone and causes considerable pain.

The balance between cartilage degradation and build-up is upset and degradation occurs at a higher rate than build-up.


Forms of arthritis

Primary, or primary osteoarthritis is more common in women, usually developing over the age of 45. The cause is unknown.

Secondary, or secondary osteoarthritis, can occur at any age and is caused by another disease, condition or predisposing factor. Examples include:

  • diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or gout
  • overuse of joints (joint-stressing work, sports, overweight)
  • remaining conditions after accidents (loss of muscle strength) or certain occupational hazards (vibration)
  • congenital malformations such as hip dysplasia or joint laxity
  • persistent physical inactivity (absolute loss of muscle strength) or obesity (relative loss of muscle strength). Even a few extra kilograms of weight increases the risk!
stages of osteoarthritis

I – Minimal abnormalities, cartilage volume reduced by 10%
II – Joint space narrowed. The cartilage surface covering the joint begins to fragment. Some bone growths are also present.
III – Joint space is moderately narrowed. The cartilage surface is fragmented and bone is visible in places. Bone growths proliferate.
IV – The joint space has almost disappeared, and the cartilage volume has decreased by more than 60%. Large bone growths at the edge of the joint.

Symptoms of arthritis

Osteoarthritis (arthritis of the knee) usually develops slowly and gradually over the years. However, there are signs to look out for. The most important symptoms of osteoarthritis are:

  • joint pain on movement
  • feeling stiffness in the joint (so-called “starting pain”, when starting to move after resting causes pain)
  • change in the shape of the joint, deformation
  • restriction of joint movement, narrowing of the joint’s range of motion


If knee pain is not treated properly after it occurs, cartilage damage can worsen rapidly and even progress to the point of being unable to walk. The pain allows less and less movement, further weakening the thigh muscles and reducing joint stability. You can also move less with more pain.

You are usually given medication to treat the condition, but these have no meaningful effect on the process, as they are not treating the cause, but aiming to eliminate the symptoms. Not to mention the fact that most of the arthritis drugs cause side effects if taken long-term.

Sometimes little things like changing a poorly supporting shoe or correcting a foot deformity with an insole can “work wonders”. If you stomp on your shoes, it’s a sign that your weight is being put in the wrong place. This tiny static error can cause huge damage over the years, so don’t underestimate it.

Peeling regularly is extremely important for your joints. Maintaining the absolute and relative strength of your legs and especially your hamstrings is essential to protect your knees. If you are overweight and your knee hurts, it is an obvious sign that your knee cannot cope with the load you are carrying. Reduce your weight before it’s too late.

If the pain is already preventing you from moving more, use muscle stimulators. In just a few weeks, you can strengthen your hamstrings enough to get rid of the pain and move more.

Treating osteoarthritis

If osteoarthritis already developed then you have to be treating your symptoms, because there is no way to replace the damaged cartilage today. Joint replacement (prosthesis) is usually recommended in advanced stages – but until then you will have to struggle with pain for a long time.

Home physiotherapy treatments are designed to stop you having to run to the doctor or the surgery. However, it’s up to your doctor to guide your treatment and decide when and how much to treat you.

TENS Treatment

TENS treatment uses electrical impulses to electrically switch off the transmission of pain signals to the brain, so you can be free of pain for hours after treatment. The treatment has no curative effect, so it gives you relief, not an improvement.

Arthritis can plague you for a long time, so buy a TENS unit that has a MODULAR TENS program. Unlike older TENS devices, you won’t need to get used to this. The Dolito or Myolito devices are suitable for this.

[message title=”Myolito TENS unit – For pain relief” title_color=”#ffffff” title_bg=”#1e73be” title_icon=”” content_color=”#000000″ content_bg=”#ededed” id=””]

  • 2-channel TENS unitmyolito multifunctional electrotherapy unit
  • 12 programs
  • Possibility to create own treatment program
  • Records time and average intensity – so you know which settings were effective for you


[message title=”Dolito TENS unit – For pain relief” title_color=”#ffffff” title_bg=”#1e73be” title_icon=”” content_color=”#000000″ content_bg=”#ededed” id=””]

  • 2-channel TENS unitDolito tens device
  • 6 programs
  • Possibility to create own treatment program
  • Records time and average intensity – so you know which settings were effective for you


Microcurrent Treatment

Microcurrent treatment is more powerful in relieving pain, but it can “do more”. Especially in the early stages of arthrosis. It has a regenerative effect, so if started early it can help regeneration and inhibit cartilage destruction. Microcurrent devices are significantly more expensive than simple TENS devices.

Soft Laser Therapy

Soft laser has similar effects, as there is growing evidence and experience of high-dose joint treatment. Electromagnetic energy of 20-50 Joules per sub-unit delivered into the joint space stimulates cartilage regeneration. Such treatments include Personal-Laser L400 and Energy-Laser L500 Pro.

[message title=”Personal Laser L400 soft laser device” title_color=”#ffffff” title_bg=”#1e73be” title_icon=”” content_color=”#000000″ content_bg=”#ededed” id=””]

  • Commonly used for arthritis treatmentSoft Laser Personal Laser L400
  • The red laser provides visual help during treatment
  • Laser Power Class 3
  • 10 seconds / 4 Joule
  • 808 nanometer laser beam
  • 400mW power


Additional treatment methods

Muscle stimulation is also a good option in this case. Strengthening the leg muscles reduces symptoms because strong muscles keep the bones apart and less pressed against each other, which relieves pain during movement.

Ultrasound therapy and PEMF pulsed magnetic field therapy are both excellent for treating osteoarthritis. They improve blood circulation, and oxygenation and stimulate regeneration processes in the area around the joint.

My suggestion

Take your knee pain very seriously! Begin treatment at the first warning signs, as it can improve and even eliminate the condition at that time. If you let the cartilage surfaces wear away, there is little or no way back from there.

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