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How Do I Know If My Knee Is Arthritis Or Something Else?

Distinguishing between knee arthritis and other conditions can be challenging without a proper medical evaluation.

However, there are some key differences and common symptoms associated with knee arthritis that may help you differentiate it from other issues…

  1. Pain – Arthritis typically causes pain that worsens with activity and improves with rest. The pain is often described as a dull ache in the knee joint. In contrast, acute injuries like ligament tears or meniscus tears may cause sudden, sharp pain.
  2. Stiffness – Arthritic knees often feel stiff, especially after periods of inactivity or rest. Stiffness typically improves with movement but may return after prolonged sitting or lying down.
  3. Swelling – Arthritis can lead to swelling and inflammation in the knee joint, particularly after periods of increased activity or with prolonged use. However, not all cases of knee arthritis result in noticeable swelling.
  4. Limited Range of Motion – Arthritis can cause a gradual loss of flexibility and range of motion in the knee joint, making it difficult to fully straighten or bend the knee. This limitation may worsen over time as the condition progresses.
  5. Crepitus – Arthritic knees may produce a grating or grinding sensation (crepitus) when moving the joint. This sensation is caused by the roughened surfaces of the damaged cartilage rubbing against each other during movement.
  6. Weakness – Chronic knee arthritis can lead to muscle weakness in the surrounding leg muscles due to reduced activity and mobility.

If you’re experiencing persistent knee pain or other symptoms, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis. A healthcare provider, such as a primary care physician or orthopedic specialist, can conduct a physical examination, review your medical history, and order imaging tests (such as X-rays or MRI scans) if necessary to determine the underlying cause of your knee symptoms.

In addition to arthritis, other potential causes of knee pain include ligament injuries (such as ACL tears), meniscus tears, bursitis, tendonitis, patellar (kneecap) dislocation or malalignment, and osteochondritis dissecans, among others. Treatment options will vary depending on the specific diagnosis and severity of the condition.