Varus Knee Treatment
The varus knee refers to the medial side of the leg. It is one of the most common types of knees. The varus knee is often referred to as “weak” or “inferior”. It is considered to have less strength than the other two types of knees.
The varus knee can develop osteoarthritis (bone degeneration) if not treated properly.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of varus knee include:
Pain when standing up from sitting down or walking. Sometimes it causes pain while running or jumping. It may cause pain during everyday activities such as bending over, sitting, and kneeling.
Difficulty moving the leg forward or backward. The knee joint may feel like it is locked. When trying to bend the knee, it feels like there is no movement at all.
Feeling that your leg will fall asleep after standing up straight. You might even experience numbness in the affected area of the foot and toes due to lack of blood flow.
How does Varus Knee Affect Your Life?
Varus knees may cause many limitations in daily life. It can make sitting for long periods of time very uncomfortable. Varus knees can also make bending or stretching painful. It can affect you while running and it can even make wearing shoes painful.
How is Varus Knee Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and do an examination of your leg to check for signs of the disease. After the examination, your doctor might order an x-ray of your leg to see if there are any bone degeneration.
What is the Prognosis of Varus Knee?
Varus knees can be treated and the disease will not cause any life-threatening complications. Not all people with the disease have serious symptoms. Some may only have slight pain that isn’t bothersome while others may have more severe symptoms that significantly affect their quality of life. Osteoarthritis is not a curable disease, however, symptoms can be managed with the proper treatment.
What are my Treatment Options?
Your doctor may suggest one or more of the following treatment options after examining your injury and reviewing your medical history:
Immobilization: Your doctor may immobilize your leg by wrapping it in a cast or splint. Immobilizing the injured part will help relieve pain and reduce further damage to the bone and cartilage.
Corticosteroid Injections: In some cases, your doctor may inject a steroid into the painful area of your knee. The anti-inflammatory drug aids in relieving pain and swelling around the affected joint.
Physical Therapy: Your doctor may send you to physical therapy to improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles surrounding your knee. It may also help improve your balance and core strength to reduce your risk of falling again.
Braces and Supports: You may also need to wear a brace or support to help stabilize and protect your knee from further damage.
Knee Replacement: In more severe cases when other treatments fail, patients may need to have a total knee replacement. The surgeon removes the damaged areas of the bone and cartilage and replaces them with man-made materials. This restoration improves range of motion, relieves pain, and restores stability and strength to the knee joint.
What activities should I avoid and which are recommended?
After your injury, you may be required to stay off your leg and keep it elevated above heart level. You may need to use crutches or a wheelchair to avoid putting any extra weight on your leg. It is important to strictly follow your doctor’s orders to speed up the healing process. Your doctor will let you know when it is safe to resume your normal activities.
What is the PROGNOSIS?
With appropriate treatment, most people with this condition can lead an active life. Arthritis of the knee happens gradually and there may be several flares ups over a period of years. Painful flare ups can be treated with rest, medication, physical therapy and changes in activities as advised by your doctor.
Why did this happen?
Degenerative changes to your bones and joints are a normal part of the aging process. It is not clear why some people experience pain and disability while others do not. Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, weight and previous injuries also play a role in the development of arthritis. Obesity is a known risk factor for developing knee osteoarthritis.
How can I manage the symptoms?
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, you can take certain steps to manage your symptoms. The following tips may help:
Managing Your Weight: Excess weight places extra stress on your joints, especially your knees. Maintaining a healthy weight through a low-calorie diet and exercise may reduce pain and improve joint function.
Quit Smoking: Nicotine restricts the flow of blood and oxygen to your tissues, which can cause irritation to your joints. Quitting smoking may relieve joint pain and improve your range of motion.
Rest: Resting the affected joint helps prevent further damage to the cartilage and allows for repair of any damage that has already occurred. You may need to limit your activities to ease pain and fatigue of this condition. Your doctor can provide a list of recommendations for you to follow.
Physical Therapy: Your therapist can show you specific exercises designed to strengthen the muscles around your knee and increase your flexibility. They can also provide you with tools such as knee braces or crutches to assist you with walking and decrease your pain.
Weight Bearing Activity: Your doctor may recommend a gradual return to activities as tolerated. Initially, you may only be able to perform lower-impact activities such as cycling or swimming. As your condition improves, your physical therapist can design an exercise program for you that includes weight-bearing exercise, such as jogging or climbing stairs. This helps prevent muscle weakness and further stress on your knee.
Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, or steroid injections can help decrease pain and inflammation. These medications can have side effects such as gastrointestinal irritation or ulcers, intestinal bleeding, kidney dysfunction, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Your physician will monitor you for these complications during treatment.
Wearing a Knee Brace: A brace can provide support and decrease the stress on your knee while it is healing. Your physician or therapist will provide you with specific instructions and guidelines for wearing this device.
Joint Replacement Surgery: In severe cases, or if other treatments are not working to manage your condition, your physician may recommend surgery to replace your knee joint.
What can I do to prevent osteoarthritis of the knee?
There are steps you can take to help prevent osteoarthritis of the knee:
Maintain a healthy weight.
Quit smoking (this includes all smoking products).
If you do engage in high-impact activities, wear protective gear.
What is the prognosis for osteoarthritis of the knee?
Most people respond well to treatment. Most can reduce pain with medication and activity modifications. Others may require more aggressive treatments, such as total joint replacement.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Femoral condyle geometry in the normal and varus knee by S Matsuda, H Matsuda, T Miyagi, K Sasaki… – Clinical Orthopaedics …, 1998 – journals.lww.com
The difficult knee: severe varus and valgus by GA Engh – Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®, 2003 – journals.lww.com
Soft-tissue balancing during total knee arthroplasty in the varus knee by WM Mihalko, KJ Saleh, KA Krackow… – JAAOS-Journal of the …, 2009 – journals.lww.com
The role of high tibial osteotomy in the varus knee by R Rossi, DE Bonasia, A Amendola – JAAOS-Journal of the …, 2011 – journals.lww.com
Chondral resurfacing and high tibial osteotomy in the varus knee by WI Sterett, JR Steadman – The American journal of sports …, 2004 – journals.sagepub.com