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Written by our Human Movement Specialists

Ever heard the terms "arthritic knee" and "knee osteoarthritis" thrown around and wondered if they're just two names for the same thing? Although often used interchangeably, they refer to different aspects of a similar condition. An arthritic knee is a catch-all term that indicates inflammation or pain in the knee joint and can encompass various types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis. On the other hand, knee osteoarthritis refers explicitly to a degenerative joint disease characterized by the gradual breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in the knee. While an arthritic knee may result from various causes, such as rheumatoid arthritis or post-traumatic arthritis, knee osteoarthritis is the most common form and typically occurs due to the wear and tear on the joint over time.

Close up of a older woman's hand on her arthritic knee

So, why does it matter if it's an arthritic knee or knee osteoarthritis? Knowing the difference helps us develop the right treatment plan to improve your comfort and mobility. 

Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis of the Knee

The symptoms of an arthritic knee and knee osteoarthritis share similarities but may also exhibit distinctive features. In the case of arthritis, symptoms may include pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. While knee osteoarthritis may cause similar symptoms, it leads to the development of bony outgrowths or spurs and a feeling of "bone on bone" in the knee. And this is quite literally what is happening; the cartilage at the end of your leg bones that acts as a shock absorber for your knee joints, ensuring they glide smoothly, is deteriorating. As the cushion starts wearing out, it causes more friction between your bones.

A Movement Specialist assessing a man's knee for a custom unloader brace

Knee Arthritis and Osteoarthritis Relief

Knee arthritis relief can often be found by slipping on a knee sleeve. The compression, warmth, and support help reduce swelling and improve blood circulation, easing discomfort and promoting stability. However, if you have knee osteoarthritis, you will most likely need something more supportive, like an unloader brace. 

Unloading braces are available in off-the-shelf and custom options depending on the severity of degeneration within your knee joint (determined by your healthcare provider). These braces are designed to alleviate pressure on the affected side of your knee joint, redistributing the load away from the damaged or degenerated areas of cartilage.

By promoting optimal joint spacing and mitigating the impact on worn-out cartilage during weight-bearing activities, you will notice a reduction in symptoms associated with osteoarthritis, including pain and stiffness. Additionally, unloader braces can provide stability to the knee, enhancing overall function and allowing you to participate in daily activities more easily. While not a cure for the degenerative nature of osteoarthritis, an unloader brace provides targeted support, helping you enjoy a more active lifestyle and providing much-needed relief.

Please make an appointment with one of our Movement Specialists to be measured and fit for your osteoarthritis bracing solution!


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