• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Post-Traumatic Arthritis Knee Symptoms

Post-traumatic knee arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis that happens as a result of physical injury to the joints.

What Is Post-Traumatic Arthritis?

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints caused by the wearing of cartilage between the bones.

Arthritis is more common in the knees and is considered to be debilitating, characterized by inflammation of the joints, pain, and limited range of movements in the knee.

There is a separate form of knee osteoarthritis called post-traumatic knee osteoarthritis that has the characteristic symptoms of osteoarthritis like damage to the knee’s cartilage and is often followed by a trauma injury like fracture or tear. Post-traumatic arthritis (PTA) can occur at any age and in any joints. Repeated injuries and excess body weight can increase the risk of post-traumatic arthritis.

Is Post Traumatic Knee Arthritis Common?

Post-traumatic arthritis accounts for about 12% of knee osteoarthritis. PTA affects about 5.6 million people in the United States

What Are The Causes Of Post Traumatic Knee Arthritis?

Sports injuries cause PTA

A sportsman injured, Credits: pixabay


The following are the causes of Post Traumatic Knee Arthritis

  1. Motor vehicle accidents

  2. Sports injuries

  3. Falls

  4. A military injury

  5. Other forms of physical trauma, such as knee surgery

  6. Ligament injury

  7. Knee fracture

The trauma injuries can cause significant damage to the cartilage of the knees and knee bones, ligaments, which change the mechanics of the joint. Gradually, cartilage and bone will wear differently and quickly than it was before the injury. The other causative factors for post-traumatic knee arthritis are overweight, repeated injuries to the knee, and lack of exercise.

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Arthritis

PTA Symptoms

PTA causes knee pain, Credits: pixabay


The risk of knee osteoarthritis was higher in patients who had a knee injury compared with those who did not. The following are the symptoms of post-traumatic knee arthritis.

  1. Joint swelling and tenderness

  2. Joint redness

  3. Fluid accumulation in the joint

  4. Warmth in the knee

  5. Knee pain

  6. Limited range of motion

  7. A “crunching” sensation when moving the knee joint

  8. Weakness or clasping in the knee

  9. Increase in pain with movement and activity

  10. Intolerance to weight-bearing activities

How to Diagnose Post Traumatic Arthritis?

PTA Diagnosis

CT Scan, Credits: pixabay


A doctor performs a physical examination to know how well the knee can move and function. A doctor will enquire when the joint pain bothers most and when it becomes worse. To view the knee cartilage and bones and to find the extent of joint damage, an X-ray examination is done.

If necessary, a CT or MRI scans are performed to evaluate the knees more in detail.

How Post Traumatic Knee Arthritis Is Treated?

A physiotherapist treating

A physiotherapist treating, Credits: pixabay


Treatment depends on the patient’s needs and the severity of the condition. The treatment aims to prevent further joint damages.

Some of the conservative treatment options include

  1. Weight loss

  2. Rest

  3. Abstaining from activities that cause significant stress on the knees

  4. Physical therapy

  5. Low impact exercise and strengthening of the muscles surrounding the joint

  6. Cortisoneinjections

  7. Medication like NSAIDs

These conservative treatments aim to make the joints functional and more comfortable. However, they do not cure arthritis. When these conservation treatments do not work, surgical options are tried. Surgical treatment includes debriding (“cleaning out”), reconstructing, or replacing the worn-out joint surfaces. Post-traumatic arthritis progresses as time goes on. The joint surface wears out further with more use over the years.

What Are The Side Effects Of Treatment?

The long term use of NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation, kidney, liver, or other problems.

Cortisone injections are not recommended often as they can increase the blood pressure and levels of blood sugar.

Surgical treatments carry risks of infection, damage to surrounding structures, and wearing out or loosening of implants. Very rarely, complications like blood clots, heart attack, and stroke can occur.

Take-Home Message

Post Traumatic knee arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis that is due to physical injuries to the joints.

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