Understanding Knee Osteoarthritis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Understanding Knee Osteoarthritis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, affects millions of people worldwide, causing pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. But what if there was a comprehensive guide that could help you understand the causes, symptoms, and treatments for this debilitating condition? With the knowledge gained from this blog post, you can take control of your health and make informed decisions about managing knee osteoarthritis.

Embark on a journey through the world of knee osteoarthritis, exploring its development, diagnosis, and treatment options. Discover the importance of preventative measures, the role of physical therapy, and the potential benefits of alternative therapies. Let’s dive into this comprehensive guide to knee osteoarthritis and learn how to live a happier, healthier life.

Key Takeaways

  • Knee Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease causing pain, stiffness and decreased mobility.

  • Risk factors include age, obesity, joint injuries and genetics. Common symptoms are pain, swelling & tenderness.

  • Diagnosis involves physical exam & imaging tests. Treatment options range from lifestyle modifications to surgery with postoperative care for successful recovery.

Understanding Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee OsteoarthritisKnee osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease resulting in pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and posttraumatic arthritis are the primary types of arthritis which affect the knee. These conditions can have a debilitating impact on mobility, making it difficult to go about daily activities. There are two varieties of knee osteoarthritis: primary knee osteoarthritis and secondary. Contrary to popular belief, knee osteoarthritis is not merely a consequence of aging but rather an independent disease that can lead to developing osteoarthritis.

The typical signs of knee osteoarthritis include pain, rigidity, and decreased mobility, with joint pain being the most common symptom. To diagnose knee osteoarthritis, a physical examination, imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and laboratory tests are typically required.

Conservative methods and surgical treatments are both available to treat osteoarthritis of the knee.

Causes and Risk Factors

Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee OA, also known as knee osteoarthritis, can be attributed to various factors such as:

  • Age

  • Obesity

  • Joint injuries

  • Genetics

As we age, the likelihood of developing knee osteoarthritis increases. Obesity is another risk factor, as it adds stress to the joints.

Joint injuries, such as fractures or ligament tears, can also contribute to the development of knee osteoarthritis. Furthermore, genetic components may play a role in the development of knee osteoarthritis, affecting the articular cartilage.

Age and Obesity

The likelihood of knee osteoarthritis increases with age, often when knee osteoarthritis begins to develop. Obesity can also cause additional stress on the knee joint, thus increasing the risk of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.

Reducing knee osteoarthritis risk may be possible through lifestyle modifications. These can include weight loss, physical therapy, and the use of medications and alternative therapies. Age and obesity can both contribute to the deterioration of the knee joint, which in turn, increases the risk of knee osteoarthritis.

Identifying these risk factors can be achieved by reviewing a patient’s medical history.

Joint Injuries

Previous joint injuries, such as fractures or ligament tears, have been found to potentially increase the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. Ligament injuries, tendon injuries, and injuries to the surrounding bursae have also been linked to knee osteoarthritis.

In fact, knee osteoarthritis is more likely to develop following a joint injury compared to those without such injuries. Prompt attention to joint injuries and proper care is underscored by this fact.


Genetics may have a role in the development of knee osteoarthritis, as certain genetic factors may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing the condition. Potential genetic factors that may predispose individuals to developing knee osteoarthritis include:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Family history

  • Certain genetic mutations

The severity of knee osteoarthritis and how well treatments work can also be influenced by genetic factors. Knowledge of one’s genetic predisposition can aid in tailoring a personalized treatment plan and in taking steps to reduce the risk of knee osteoarthritis.

Common Symptoms

Knee Osteoarthritis

Typical symptoms of knee osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain

  • Stiffness

  • Swelling

  • Tenderness

  • A grating or crackling sound when the joint is moved

Over time, these symptoms may become more severe, potentially leading to increased pain and decreased mobility.

Common knee osteoarthritis symptoms often include knee pain that develops slowly and worsens with activity, joint stiffness and swelling, and escalating pain after resting or sitting for extended periods.

Recognizing these symptoms and understanding their implications is vital for seeking suitable treatment and effectively managing the condition.

Diagnosis Process

Knee Osteoarthritis

Diagnosing knee osteoarthritis requires a physical examination, patient-reported symptoms, and diagnostic tests such as X-rays and blood tests. A physical examination paired with patient-reported symptoms are key diagnostic tools for knee osteoarthritis. They assist in assessing the severity of the disease and in excluding other conditions.

Radiographic imaging, including standing anteroposterior (AP), standing lateral in extension, and skyline view of the patella, is mandated for diagnosis, and blood tests may also be suggested. Obtaining radiographs of the knee with the patient standing provides an accurate depiction of the joint space narrowing present.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Conservative treatments for knee osteoarthritis include lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, assistive devices, other remedies, medications, and alternative therapies.

These non-surgical options can help manage pain, improve mobility, and enhance the overall quality of life for those suffering from knee osteoarthritis.

Lifestyle Modifications

Lifestyle modifications are alterations to daily habits that may assist in relieving symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. Dietary regulation and low-impact aerobic exercise are recommended for weight loss, which can help alleviate stress on the knee joint and reduce the risk of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.

Engaging in physical activity may not only augment joint mobility but also enhance overall quality of life and can assist in diminishing depression. A well-rounded approach to managing knee osteoarthritis symptoms includes:

  • Weight loss

  • Orthotic/bracing utilization

  • Physical exercise and therapy

  • Support groups

By incorporating these strategies, you can effectively manage and alleviate knee osteoarthritis symptoms.

Physical Therapy

A physiotherapist is responsible for:

  • Devising an individualized program of rehabilitation exercises to assist in strengthening the knee and leg muscles

  • Utilizing exercise as an effective form of pain management

  • Enhancing physical functioning in the short term

Research has demonstrated that exercise can be utilized as an effective form of pain management and also enhances physical functioning in the short term.

A TENS machine, which emits mild electrical currents through the skin to inhibit or reduce pain signals from nerve endings, may be of assistance to certain individuals with osteoarthritis, although it is not a guaranteed remedy. Physical therapy, therefore, plays a crucial role in the conservative management of knee osteoarthritis.

Medications and Alternative Therapies

Options for treating knee osteoarthritis pain and inflammation include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), paracetamol, and opioid painkillers, which can provide pain relief. However, potential side-effects should be considered, and a physician consulted before starting on NSAIDs.

Corticosteroid injections are frequently employed to diminish pain and inflammation in a particularly painful, swollen knee joint.

While the evidence regarding the efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements is limited, some individuals may still find relief from their knee osteoarthritis symptoms through these dietary supplements.

CBD - Why Full spectrum is best and interaction warnings

Full-spectrum CBD, which contains all naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant, may provide relief for knee osteoarthritis symptoms. It interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, aiding in pain and inflammation management among other symptoms.

However, it is imperative to be cognizant of potential interactions with other medications when taking full-spectrum CBD. Some medications may interact with CBD, thus it is essential to consult with a doctor prior to taking CBD.

Surgical Treatment Options


Surgery, including options like:

  • Arthroscopy

  • Cartilage grafting

  • Synovectomy

  • Osteotomy

  • Knee replacement

is considered for knee osteoarthritis when other treatments fail to alleviate symptoms. It’s particularly recommended when the disease significantly impacts daily activities or causes severe pain.

Surgery is not the first line of treatment for knee osteoarthritis, and it


Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure employed to diagnose and treat joint issues. It involves the utilization of an arthroscope to inspect the joints through small incisions. The procedure of arthroscopy involves:

  1. Making a small incision in the skin near the affected joint

  2. Inserting a thin, flexible tube referred to as an arthroscope

  3. The arthroscope is equipped with a miniature camera that allows the surgeon to observe the interior of the joint.

The surgeon can then use specialized instruments to remove damaged cartilage or mend torn menisci. The potential benefits of arthroscopy include a more expedited recovery period, reduced pain, and enhanced joint function, though there are risks such as infection, bleeding, and nerve damage.

Cartilage Grafting and Synovectomy

Cartilage grafting and synovectomy involve transplanting healthy cartilage to substitute for damaged areas or eliminating inflamed synovial tissue. Cartilage grafting addresses chondral and osteochondral lesions, most commonly in the knee, by transplanting cartilage cells into the affected area to create a new cartilage surface in the joint, restoring the protective layer of cartilage.

Synovectomy is a surgical procedure wherein the inflamed synovial tissue from a joint is removed, serving to decrease pain and enhance joint function in individuals suffering from arthritis. These processes can assist in the retardation of arthritis and postpone the necessity for joint replacement surgery, enhancing joint performance, alleviating pain, and augmenting the quality of life.

Osteotomy and Knee Replacement

Osteotomy is a surgical procedure wherein a bone is cut and restructured to realign and enhance its function, sometimes even addressing issues like bone spurs. The advantages of osteotomy include enhanced joint alignment, abatement of pain, and augmented function, though there are potential risks associated with osteotomy such as infection, nerve damage, and blood clots.

Knee replacement surgery, on the other hand, is a procedure wherein the compromised knee joint is substituted with an artificial joint. Both osteotomy and knee replacement are more invasive surgical options for treating knee osteoarthritis when non-surgical treatments have not provided sufficient relief.

Postoperative Care and Rehabilitation

Knee Osteoarthritis

A successful recovery after knee osteoarthritis surgery relies heavily on appropriate postoperative care and rehabilitation, which includes physical therapy and pain management. The objective of postoperative and rehabilitation care after a Total Knee Arthroplasty (TKA) is to restore the highest attainable range of mobility and full muscular control of the operated knee.

A customary follow-up routine after a TKA includes visits at 6 weeks, 3 months, and one year post-surgery. Patients may typically resume driving within 4 to 6 weeks and return to work between 4 to 10 weeks, depending on the work requirements.

Prevention Strategies

Knee Osteoarthritis

Maintenance of a healthy weight, regular engagement in low-impact exercise, and protection of the knee joint from injury are key preventive measures against knee osteoarthritis.

Sustaining a healthy weight can assist in reducing the probability of developing knee osteoarthritis, as well as diminish the indications of existing knee osteoarthritis. Losing weight through low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and cycling may be beneficial in reducing the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis and alleviating the symptoms of existing knee osteoarthritis.

Using protective equipment such as knee pads and braces, abstaining from activities that impose undue strain on the knee joint, and abstaining from high-impact activities can assist in protecting the knee joint from harm.


In conclusion, understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments for knee osteoarthritis is vital for managing this degenerative joint disease. From conservative treatments such as lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, and medications, to more invasive surgical options like arthroscopy, cartilage grafting, and knee replacement, various options are available to help improve mobility and reduce pain. By incorporating preventative measures, seeking appropriate treatment, and adhering to postoperative care and rehabilitation guidelines, individuals suffering from knee osteoarthritis can regain their quality of life and live a happier, healthier life.

May this comprehensive guide to knee osteoarthritis equip you with the knowledge and tools needed to take control of your health and make informed decisions about your treatment and recovery. Remember, you have the power to manage your knee osteoarthritis and live a life free from pain and limitations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can be done for osteoarthritis of the knee?

Treatments for osteoarthritis of the knee include stretching exercises to keep the joint mobile and flexible, pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, maintaining a healthy weight, using a knee brace, cortisone injections, viscosupplementation, and in some cases, surgery. Other methods, such as applying ice or heat, losing weight, doing physical therapy, using acupuncture or massage, and engaging in regular low-impact activities like swimming, biking or walking, can also help manage the symptoms.

What does osteoarthritis in the knee feel like?

Osteoarthritis in the knee often presents with swelling, weakness in the thigh muscle, and a feeling of instability when bearing weight or walking.

What are the 4 stages of osteoarthritis knee?

Osteoarthritis knee has four stages: Stage 0, which is normal knee health with no signs of joint damage; Stage 1, minor signs of wear and tear; Stage 2, mild impairment; Stage 3, moderate damage; and Stage 4, severe damage.

What is the most common treatment for knee osteoarthritis?

The most common treatment for knee osteoarthritis is a combination of lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly, along with pain relief medication and supportive therapies.

What is the difference between primary and secondary knee osteoarthritis?

Primary knee osteoarthritis is caused by the natural aging process, while secondary knee osteoarthritis is caused by an underlying condition or injury.