Osteoarthritis is chronic wear of the joint cartilage accompanied by an imbalance between the production and destruction of bone cells. Osteoarthritis is a complex phenomenon involving physical and metabolic factors. In a joint, the cartilage covers the end of the bone and helps to ensure joint mobility with minimum friction. The cells are replaced at the same rate as they are destroyed. The full mobility of the joint is thus preserved. When the cells are renewed more slowly than they are destroyed, and/or if physical stresses (impacts, repeated friction) are too severe, the metabolic balance of the joint is disrupted. Cartilage wear then develops, starting with cracks, which then gradually worsen to form genuine holes (ulcerations). The bone can be left completely bare in places and the bone surfaces are then in direct contact with one another.
The phenomenon tends to be a self-perpetuating process. It culminates in painful restriction of joint mobility, with the joint becoming increasingly stiff. Arthritic pain is triggered by use of the joint and relieved by rest. However, certain inflammatory forms are also painful at night. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it is most common in the knees, hands, spine and hips. It is promoted by physical factors, heredity, age or obesity.
Osteoarthritis of the knee (also known as gonarthrosis) is chronic wear of the knee joint cartilage. It can have several locations: between the femur and the tibia (medial or lateral femoro-tibial compartment osteoarthritis), between the femur and the patella or kneecap (patello-femoral compartment osteoarthritis), or between the femur, the tibia and the patella (multicompartmental osteoarthritis). When the axis of the knees is not totally horizontal (genu varum or genu valgum), the pressure exerted by the weight of the body is not evenly distributed on the joint. Some parts of the joint surface are subject to greater friction than others and the cartilage there deteriorates due to wear. Being overweight is an obvious factor promoting osteoarthritis of the knee, but the condition may also develop in people with a history of knee injury, such as fracture or severe sprain with ligament rupture.
An orthopaedic solution meets two objectives: it reduces pain and increases joint stability. As a result of these effects, the walking perimeter is increased. Elastic knee braces made of natural fibre and reinforced by a foam pad retain heat (analgesic effect) and improve knee position sensations. The limb feels better, which has a reassuring and stabilising effect. In the case of a varus ("bow-legged) or valgus ("knock-kneed") deformity, wearing corrective insoles helps relieve pressure on the painful compartment. A global approach to medical care is required. You may be advised to lose weight by your doctor in order to reduce strain on your damaged joint. In all cases, it is important to remain physically active in order to stay in good physical and psychological health.
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