January 13, 2020 12:10 pm Published by Dr. Mark Bursztyn

The most common cause of knee pain in adults is osteoarthritis. By definition, osteoarthritis is joint inflammation due to wear and tear of the articular cartilage that covers the bones inside the joint. The knee, and other weight bearing joints such as the hip, are more prone to osteoarthritis. The two main reasons for this are the fact that these joints are subjected to repetitive loads, as well as the tendency for some people to have those joints aligned in ways that are more susceptible to wear and tear.

In some ways, the articular cartilage inside our joints is analogous to the tires on a car. If you leave your car in the garage, the tires won’t wear out. However, if you put a lot of miles on your car, those tires will wear out much more quickly. As the articular cartilage in our joints wears out more and more, we can eventually develop narrowing of the space between the bones. In advanced stages, this can lead to “bone on bone” arthritis.

People can also naturally have their bones aligned in ways that may predispose them to developing osteoarthritis. Individuals that are “bow-legged” or “knock-kneed” can place more of a load on certain parts of their knee joints, and therefore be more prone to wear and tear of the cartilage.

Another cause of osteoarthritis is significant acute injury to the cartilage within the joint. For example, patients that sustain fractures to portions of their thigh or shin bones within the knee joint are more prone to developing osteoarthritis within that joint. This is termed “post-traumatic” osteoarthritis.

Finally, recent research has revealed that there is a genetic component to arthritis as well. Just like certain traits and some diseases, osteoarthritis can run in families.

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