Knee Pain from Osteoarthritis - What are the Three "Compartments" of the Knee?
Everyone suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee eventually ends up consulting a doctor. It may take years, but such is the nature of this degenerative joint disease that it wears you down.
One common source of frustration is the combination of medical jargon and short consultations with medical professionals. You go in with a long list of questions in your head but before you know it you have said goodbye and are out in the corridor.
Obviously there are some doctors that use more jargon than others, but the more you understand, the more you can make of those brief minutes discussing your future.
You don't need to study for a University degree, you just need to remember a few terms.
Only 4 to remember:
The Femur: This is your thigh bone
The Tibia: This is your shin bone
The Patella: This is your kneecap
The Fibula: The smaller of the two bones running between the knee and the ankle. It runs down the outside of your leg.
Joints occur where bones move against each other. The two relevant joints in knee arthritis are the tibiofemoral joint (the main, hinge type joint of the knee) and the patellofemoral joint (the articulation between the kneecap and the thigh bone. Healthy joints are covered with smooth articular cartilage that enables pain free movement. Osteoarthritis is the wearing down of this covering.
When people talk of knee osteoarthritis, they usually refer to degenerative changes between the femur and the tibia.
The bottom end of the femur forms two distinct 'knuckle' like projections. One on the inside of the knee, one on the outside. The result is that the joint between the femur and the tibia is divided into these two parts.
They are called the medial compartment (inside compartment) and the lateral compartment (outside compartment).
The most common place to get arthritis is in the medial compartment.
You can have osteoarthritis in one compartment and this is known as unicompartmental arthritis. This term does not tell you which side it is on.
Bicompartmental arthritis means there is degeneration on both the inside and outside of the knee.
The third compartment is the patellofemoral joint between the kneecap and the thigh bone.
So you can have it on one side, both sides, or both sides and the kneecap as well.
Why are compartments relevant?
The location and extent of your arthritis will decide which treatment options are likely to work for you. Certain operations are only suitable for arthritis in one compartment - a unicompartmental knee replacement, as the name implies, only resurfaces half of the knee. It is pointless if there is widespread arthritis. When there is arthritis in all three parts of the knee, a total knee replacement is the only suitable procedure.
You will be relying on your surgeons knowledge and experience to choose the most appropriate course of treatment for you. The more you understand the more relaxed you will feel. It also helps your rehabilitation if you understand why you are doing the exercises prescribed to you.
For information on living with arthritis of the knee, and advice on both surgical and non-surgical treatment options, visit The Arthritic Knee
For information on the use of offloading braces for unicompartmental osteoarthritis, click here.
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Continually updated information and advice on living with osteoarthritis of the knee. Treatment reviews, exercise advice, and the direction of research into future technological breakthroughs. Find all that and more at The Arthritic Knee
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