A healthy knee has linings of cartilage and lubricating joint fluid (i.e. synovial fluid) to protect and cushion between the main leg bones, allowing for pain-free knee movements. However, in osteoarthritis, the cartilage lining gradually wears out and the synovial fluid loses its shock-absorbing qualities. This produces the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Doctors grade the severity of osteoarthritis by a combination of the symptoms including pain, stiffness, swelling, or loss of range of motion and X-ray appearance of the knee.
Symptoms can be worse in the mornings or after a period of inactivity. Pain may also increase after weight-bearing activities. This is an irreversible condition and the symptoms may worsen with time although with appropriate treatment, your symptoms can improve.
You should seek medical attention if your knee pain is sudden in onset and severe, or associated with significant swelling, redness, heat of the knees or other systemic signs of infection such as high fevers.
We recommend avoiding activity which will provoke the knee such as jogging or stair climbing. However, prolonged rest or a sedentary lifestyle is not advised as a treatment for knee osteoarthritis due to the risk of weight gain which can place even more stress of the knees. Inactivity also leads to wasting of the muscles that support the knee, leading to more knee pain and instability. If the knee is swollen, icing, compression, and elevation can be helpful. Pain medications can also provide temporary relief.
The doctor will assess your symptoms and examine your knee, alongside factors such as your exercise routine, footwear, and lower limb muscle strength and flexibility. X-rays or an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan of the knee may be ordered if necessary. If you are diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis, there are a wide range of treatment options to reduce your pain and improve function.
Non-surgical treatments include lifestyle modifications such as weight loss if you are overweight, aerobic and strengthening exercises under physiotherapy instruction, or use of walking aids such as a cane, hiking stick, or walking frame.
Sometimes wearing specialised shoes or knee brace for knee arthritis can be helpful. Pain medications such as anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed to help reduce pain and swelling in the joint.
Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate are also commonly used by patients with osteoarthritis and might help with pain, although studies have not demonstrated that it prevents the progression of osteoarthritis.
Other options include corticosteroids which are anti-inflammatory medications that are injected into the joint for short term pain relief. Visco-supplementation involves injecting substances (i.e. Hyaluronic Acid) which are similar to synovial fluid into the knee joint to provide relief.
If the knee symptoms do not respond to these conservative treatments and the joint degeneration is severe, knee replacement surgery may be advised. Surgical treatment is individualised and the patient makes an informed decision after consultation with the Orthopaedic surgeon.
Subscribe to our mailing list to get the updates to your email inbox...