By Dr. Ryan Geringer
When you think of arthritis, you think of older adults. Maybe you remember your grandparents complaining of achy knees or hands. What you may not know is that young adults can suffer, too. Folks even in their 20’s and 30’s can develop osteoarthritis (OA) which stays with them for the rest of their lives. There are a few reasons young adults develop OA. In this two-part series, we discuss how injury and obesity contribute to early onset osteoarthritis
The most common reason for osteoarthritis in young adults is an injury. Studies have found that clinical OA develops approximately 12-14 years after a knee injury . A quick calculation shows that an injury from high school can mean OA in people as young as 26.
The causes are changes to the joint’s mechanisms and the deconditioning of the musculoskeletal system . After an injury, the knee can start moving in a subtle yet damaging new way. Muscular deconditioning leads to increased joint loads and osteoarthritis development and progression. Parts that aren’t supposed to touch or rub against each other suddenly do and changes to the surrounding muscles reinforce this.
Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are especially conducive to the development of osteoarthritis. Without this important stabilizing structure, the joint develops a new trajectory and moves side to side much more than it should. Substantial meniscus tears also mean changes to the joint structure.
Treatment and Relief
There are a few ways you can prevent osteoarthritis initiation and progression. Sadly, a study has shown that reparative knee surgery does not decrease your chances of developing OA after an injury . Instead, the best way to avoid OA is the prevention of injuries.
Sports that involve a lot of pivoting moves such as soccer, tennis, and basketball are common sources of knee injuries. When playing sports you can wear a brace such as the Reaction Knee Brace or a more rigid custom brace for contact sports to keep your knee properly aligned and supported.
Another important point is to properly rehabilitate after an injury. Our Knee Kits can help after a variety of knee injuries. Each kit comes with a stretch and strength plan developed by our physical therapist to assist in the healing process. Compression and cold therapy are very important after an injury to reduce the painful swelling so you can begin rebuilding strength before too much is lost.
The Best Kit for You
If OA is a part of your life, our Knee Kit for Osteoarthritis was made for you. It has everything you need to alleviate your pain and slow progression: the Reaction Knee Brace, the Freeze Sleeve, our Strength & Stretch Plan, and Fast Freeze, a pain-relieving spray for instant relief.
Injuries are not the only cause of OA in young adults. Stay tuned for the next article in this series on how obesity contributes to this debilitating condition.
* This article is written for educational purposes only. Any true diagnosis or actions should be taken under the guidance of your physician.