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Osteoarthritis of the Knee

April 14, 2020

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition in which the natural cushioning between joints (the cartilage) wears away. When this happens, the bones of the joints rub more closely against one another causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and sometimes the formation of bony spurs.

The knee is one of the most common places to get arthritis or ‘wear and tear’. There are a variety of treatment options:

-          Weight loss: If you are overweight there will be more pressure going through the joints of your lower limb. Weight loss has been proven to reduce pain in knee arthritis

-          Medications: Your doctor may prescribe painkillers and/or anti-inflammatory drugs which may help with your symptoms

-          Injections: Hyaluronic acid may help with replacing loss of the fluid-like shock absorber in your knee, while Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can provide pain relief when injected



Treatment for your OA may involve a combination of the above but should also include some form of exercise. While it may seem counter-productive if you have a very painful arthritic joint, research shows that exercise can help reduce pain, swelling and stiffness associated with the disease. Exercise can strengthen the joints that support your knee, leading to more pain-free movement. In fact, a high quality review published in 2015 showed that land-based therapeutic exercise provides benefit that is sustained for at least 2–6 months after stopping formal treatment.


What about surgery?

If you have ‘tried everything’ and your knee OA is still seriously debilitating you, it might be worth discussing with surgeon about arthroscopy. Arthroscopic knee surgery involves removing cartilage fragments, bony spurs or debridement to smooth out the surfaces of the knee joint. Theoretically, this should improve joint motion, decreasing your pain. However, a lot of research has shown that outcomes are no different after arthroscopic surgery than if following a regular exercise program.


A good surgical option is to get a Total Knee Replacement but should only be considered when all the other treatment options have been explored.


Bottom line: Always try exercise first! If you are still having issues with your knee you might need a combination of rest, exercise, medications etc. If that is still not working, talk to a surgeon about your options.


If you think you have osteoarthritis and would like more information on physiotherapy as a treatment option please contact us at 01 441 0100.