5 Treatments for Knee Osteoarthritis

There's no cure for knee osteoarthritis, but there are many steps you can take to help keep yourself moving and free yourself from unbearable pain. Staying fit by getting enough exercise and losing weight, if necessary, is the most important thing you can do for yourself. But in order to stay active and fit, you have to control the pain in your knees.

Over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin, not only relieve pain but also help reduce inflammation.  Prescription medications that relieve arthritis pain are also available. Since both prescription and over-the-counter medications have potential side effects, speak with your doctor about which medication is best for you.

If pain medication isn't working for you, your doctor may recommend stronger anti-inflammatory medications, known as corticosteroids, which are injected directly into the joint. These injections are a temporary solution for reducing pain and swelling and can only be taken a limited number of times in each joint. 

The rubber-like cartilage that covers the ends of your bones where they meet is what normally allows your knee joints to move easily. Worn-out or damaged cartilage leads to arthritis stiffness and pain. In a procedure called viscosupplementation, hyaluronic acid is injected into joints to temporarily supplement the lubricating fluids in the joint and stimulate the growth of new cartilage that will help smooth out the worn or damaged surface.

Physical Therapy and Exercise
A physical therapist can guide you through specific exercises designed to increase joint flexibility and range of motion, as well as improve muscle strength and reduce pain. During physical therapy, you may also learn when and how to apply cold or heat packs and how to use assistive devices such as braces, splints, and elastic bandage wraps.

If your established exercise routine is becoming difficult for you, you may have to switch from high-impact activities such as aerobics classes and jogging to lower-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, and walking.

Supportive Devices
Also known as assistive devices, braces, knee sleeves, specially designed shoes, or shoe inserts and canes are some of the common tools that lend support to the knee joint, particularly during exercise. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, knee braces are especially useful for relieving pain, providing stability, and allowing you to walk longer distances.

In advanced cases of knee osteoarthritis, several types of surgery may be considered. The type of surgery your doctor recommends will depend on your age, the condition of your joints, and the stage of your disease.

Arthroscopy involves small incisions through which the surgeon removes bone spurs, cysts, or damaged or loose fragments of tissue from the joint.

Osteotomy realigns the longer bones in the leg, which reduces pressure on the knee joint.

Arthroplasty is another name for joint replacement. Parts of bones are removed and replaced with metal or plastic components to create a new joint.



American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Ortho Info July 2007 Web July 2012

Davis, E., et al; "Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Guide for Adults." Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)/ Eisenberg Center at Oregon Health and Science University. April 2009 Web July 2012