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Osteoarthritis of the Knee

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Osteoarthritis of the Knee

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This article provides you with information regarding the wear and tear in the knee joint, its causes, prevention, and methods of treatment available.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Preetha. J

Published At December 10, 2016
Reviewed AtSeptember 20, 2022

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition in which there is pain and swelling in one or more joints. Many types of arthritis have been identified.

The common forms of arthritis are:

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Inflammation of one or more joints is termed osteoarthritis. It is the most common form of arthritis that can affect any joint in the body, such as hands, spine, knees, and hips.

Osteoarthritis is like wear and tear, which develops over many years. It is most commonly seen in people over 50 years of age, especially in women. The cartilage gradually roughens and becomes thin, exposing the underlying bone. The wear is more common on the inner side of the knee. Both knees need not be affected at the same time.

Osteoarthritis can lead to:

  • Weak ligaments.

  • Bone wearing can lead to asymmetric shape and movements.

  • Changes to articular cartilage.

  • Tears of the menisci.

What Are the Causes of Osteoarthritis of the Knees?

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that can affect the many tissues of the joint and can cause damage or breakdown of the joint cartilage present between the bones.

What Are the Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis of the Knees?

The cause of osteoarthritis is not clear, but it depends on various factors like:

  • Sportsmen who played contact sports.

  • Previous injury to the knee.

  • Obese people with BMI (Body Mass Index) more than 30.

  • People who regularly carry heavyweights, prolonged squatting or kneeling, and repetitive strain to knees are more likely to acquire osteoarthritis.

  • Deposition of crystals like uric acid in the joint is a chemical risk factor and may damage the joint fast.

  • Injury or overusing the joints like knee bending and repetitive stress on a joint can cause damage to the joint and increase the risk of OA in that joint.

  • Women are more commonly affected by osteoarthritis than men, especially after 50.

  • Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that can worsen with increasing age and weight of the patient.

  • Being overweight adds more stress on weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees, increasing the risk of getting osteoarthritis in that joint. Fats cells can produce proteins that may lead to harmful inflammation in and around your joints. and cause metabolic effects to increase the risk of osteoarthritis. Therefore, the more you weigh, the higher your risk is.

  • People with a family history of osteoarthritis are at a higher risk of developing it, and people with hand osteoarthritis can also develop knee osteoarthritis.

  • Few Asian populations have a lower risk for OA.

  • Malalignment of bone or joint structures can also increase the risk of OA.

What Are the Symptoms Associated with Osteoarthritis of the Knees?

Initially, the patient may feel discomfort after a long walk or exertion. The disease may develop:

  • Swelling in the joints.

  • Tender and warm joints.

  • Limited range of movement.

  • Pain and stiffness of joints.

  • Clicking or grinding sounds from joints.

  • Muscles may become weak and thin.

  • Extra bits of bone (bone spurs) can form around the affected joint.

  • The patient may also develop bow legs or knocked knees.

  • Stiffness after rest or after sitting for some time and early in the mornings.

  • In progressed cases, the pain can interrupt simple daily chores and disturb sleep.

Whom to Consult for Osteoarthritis of the Knees?

Rheumatologists specialize in treating arthritis, autoimmune diseases, pain disorders affecting joints, and osteoporosis, and Orthopedic surgeons are specialized in the surgery of bone and joint disorders. So people can consult them for osteoarthritis of the knees.

How to Diagnose Osteoarthritis of the Knees?

Osteoarthritis can be diagnosed by,

  • Reviewing the symptoms.

  • Physical examination.

  • X-rays.

  • Laboratory tests.

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans can be ordered when the images in the x-rays are not clear.

What are the Treatment Options for osteoarthritis of the knees?

Treatment depends upon the stage of the osteoarthritis. It cannot be cured at once, but one should not consider this as a disease. The main aim of the treatment of osteoarthritis is to make life more comfortable.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but medication or other therapies that do not involve medication can help to ease the pain. When medications and other methods do not help, the joints can be surgically fused or replaced with materials made in a combination of metal, plastic, and ceramic.


Anti-inflammatory and pain medications are available in the form of pills, syrups, patches, gels, creams, or injectables to treat osteoarthritis. Topical creams or gels can be used as an alternative to oral medications.

  • Analgesics: Pain-relieving medications include Acetaminophen and Opioids.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs can alleviate inflammation and pain. They include Aspirin, Naproxen, Ibuprofen, and Celecoxib, available either OTC (over-the-counter) or by prescription.

  • Counterirritants: These counterirritants will irritate nerve endings and make the painful area cold, warm, or itchy, which will make the patient forget about the actual pain. These OTC drugs are applied directly to the skin over the painful joints. They usually contain ingredients like menthol, capsaicin, and lidocaine.

  • Corticosteroids: These prescription anti-inflammatory medicines work similarly to a hormone called cortisol. They can be taken by mouth or injected into the joint at a doctor’s office.

  • Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP): PRP therapy is given by the doctor through injection to help ease pain and inflammation.

  • Other Drugs: Antidepressant drugs like Duloxetine and anti-seizure medications like Pregabalin have also been approved by FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to treat osteoarthritis.

Non-drug Therapies:

  • Exercises.

  • Weight Loss.

  • Knee supports or braces can relieve pain with external support but can be uncomfortable to wear.

  • Canes can be used for a problem with one side of the body, and walkers can be used for pain on both sides to help in walking.

  • Physical therapists can provide specific exercises to stabilize the joints and ease the pain.


Surgery in the joint can be done to improve pain and function. Joint replacement surgery can replace damaged joints to restore mobility and relieve pain.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Does Arthritis Pain in the Knee Feel Like?

The pain in osteoarthritis is very sharp. Movements of the joints can aggravate the painful condition. Some patients experience swelling. You have to consult your doctor immediately if the pain persists for a long time.


Can Walking Help Patients With Osteoarthritis?

Walking is advised for osteoarthritis patients only if they are not obese. Otherwise, the patient is asked to take rest so that they do not strain. Excessive walking can increase the load on the knees and can aggravate the pain.


Which Is Better for Arthritis, Heat or Ice?

Heat therapy can help in lubricating the joints and relaxing the muscles. It is also helpful in relieving the stiffness of the joints. The joints get warmed up to ease the spams of the muscle. On the application of cold, the swelling and inflammation will be reduced. The pain associated with arthritis is reduced.


How Do I Lubricate My Knees?

You can lubricate the knees with the help of heat therapy. In addition to this, wax therapy treatment can be performed by physiotherapists so that the joints slowly improve on lubrication. This method requires professional help, and you need to consult your doctor.


What Are the Exercises to Be Avoided for Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

The following exercises should be avoided by osteoarthritis of the knee.
- Squatting.
- Repetitive jumping.
- Continuous running.
- Running upstairs.
- Deep lunging.
- High-impact sports.


What Is the Best Age to Have a Knee Replacement?

There are no age specifications for knee replacement surgery. The surgery is planned based on the severity of the condition and not the age. Most of the patients who undergo knee replacement surgery are more than 50 years of age.


When Do I Need a Knee Replacement?

You will need a replacement of the knee if you are experiencing the following symptoms.
- Knee ache immediately after performing the exercises.
- Analgesics do not give any relief.
- Difficulty in moving the legs.
- Prolonged pain in the knees.


What Happens if I Delay the Knee Replacement Surgery?

Surgeries can create anxiousness in some people. This will make them delay the surgery. But, this is not advisable because delaying the surgery will make the osteoarthritis condition worse. There will be severe inflammation and damage seen in the joints.


What Is the Duration of Hospital Stay for a Knee Replacement?

The patient will be asked to stay in the hospital for a duration of four or five days. In advanced knee replacement surgery methods, the patient can be discharged on the same day of the treatment. A follow-up visit should be made after one week.


When Can I Walk Normally After Knee Replacement Surgery?

You cannot walk immediately after a knee replacement surgery. It is necessary to take rest for three to four weeks after the surgery. After this resting period, the patient can start doing minimal activities and gradually return to their daily routine.


Can You Kneel Down After a Knee Replacement?

You can kneel down after a knee replacement surgery if it does not cause you any feel. Many people report that they experience discomfort during bending and kneeling. In such cases, it is necessary to avoid the activities that would enhance the pain for you.


Is It Possible to Reverse osteoarthritis?

Yes, you can reverse osteoarthritis if the treatment is formulated well. The medications that are helpful in reversing the condition of osteoarthritis are:
- Duloxetine.
- Acetaminophen.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.


Is It Possible to Cure Knee Osteoarthritis?

It is very difficult to cure osteoarthritis of the knee. But the condition of osteoarthritis can be prevented from further injury by restricting the movements and doing normal physical exercises. You should consult your doctor immediately to know about the various treatment options for your condition.


Is Knee Replacement a Difficult Procedure?

Knee replacement can be a difficult procedure. The surgery could last for more than three hours. After the surgery, the pain can gain more mobility of the knees. But, the presence of scar tissue can make the bending movements difficult.


How Is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of osteoarthritis requires the following procedures.
- X-rays.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Joint fluid analysis.
- Blood tests


How Can Osteoarthritis Be Treated?

The treatment for osteoarthritis might involve the following procedures.
- Analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents are suggested to relieve pain.
- Mild exercises and physiotherapy can help.
- Acupuncture is the best alternative treatment option.
- Surgical procedures are recommended for complicated conditions.
Dr. Althuri Mohan Krishna
Dr. Althuri Mohan Krishna

Orthopedician and Traumatology


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