Osteoarthritis of the Knee: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Osteoarthritis of the knee

What is Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common joint problem where the protective cartilage wears down, causing pain and stiffness. This condition often results from ageing, joint injuries, obesity, or genetic factors. As the cartilage diminishes, bones in the knee may rub together, leading to discomfort. Symptoms include persistent knee pain, swelling, and reduced mobility.

Timely consultation with a doctor is essential for diagnosis. Treatments, ranging from lifestyle adjustments to medications or surgery, can help manage symptoms and improve overall knee health.

What Are the Causes of Osteoarthritis?

A mix of factors can be the causes of osteoarthritis. This includes ageing, joint injuries, obesity, and genetics. Over time, wear and tear on joints contribute to the breakdown of protective cartilage. This leads to bones rubbing together. Joint injuries, whether from accidents or sports, increase the risk, especially if they involve cartilage damage.

Obesity adds stress to joints, accelerating cartilage deterioration. Genetic factors influence susceptibility. The cumulative impact results in pain, swelling, and stiffness. Understanding these causes is crucial for managing osteoarthritis effectively. People make lifestyle changes, take medications, and sometimes have surgery to feel better and improve their joints.

What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

Recognising the symptoms of osteoarthritis is essential for early intervention. While each individual may experience OA differently, some of the common symptoms include:

1. Persistent Knee Pain: Pain, often aching or sharp, is a hallmark of knee OA. It may worsen after activity or prolonged periods of inactivity.

2. Stiffness: Individuals with knee OA often experience stiffness, particularly in the morning or after sitting for an extended period. This stiffness typically improves with movement.

3. Swelling: Inflammation of the joint can lead to swelling around the knee, contributing to discomfort and reduced mobility.

4. Grating Sensation: Some people with knee OA report a grating or grinding sensation within the joint during movement. This is due to the rubbing of bones against each other.

5. Decreased Range of Motion: As the condition progresses, the ability to fully extend or flex the knee may diminish, impacting day-to-day activities.

6. Pain Worsens with Activity: Physical activity, especially weight-bearing exercises, can exacerbate pain in individuals with knee osteoarthritis. This pain often intensifies after periods of increased movement.

7. Morning Stiffness: Many individuals experience increased stiffness in the morning, making it challenging to start the day with ease. This stiffness tends to improve as the day progresses and the joints become more mobile.

8. Gradual Decrease in Mobility: Over time, there is a noticeable decline in the overall mobility of the knee joint. Tasks that were once performed without difficulty may become challenging, emphasising the progressive nature of osteoarthritis.

9. Pain Variation: The pain associated with osteoarthritis can vary, with some individuals experiencing constant discomfort. At the same time, others may have intermittent episodes of more intense pain.

10. Visible Joint Changes: In advanced stages, visible changes such as bony enlargements, known as bone spurs, may develop around the affected knee joint.

Should You Consult a Doctor If You Have the Above Symptoms?

If your knee hurts a lot, feels stiff, or swells, see a doctor. They can check you with exams and tests to find out if it's knee osteoarthritis. Starting treatment early helps manage it better.

Ignoring any of the symptoms may lead to increased joint damage, making it more challenging to address later on. Seeking timely medical advice enables the development of a comprehensive treatment for osteoarthritis, improving the chances of slowing down the progression of the condition and enhancing overall joint health.

What Are the Different Procedures to Cure Osteoarthritis?

1. Lifestyle Modifications:

  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is paramount, as excess weight exacerbates stress on the knee joints. A balanced diet and regular exercise contribute to weight control.
  • Low-Impact Exercises: Engaging in low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling, helps improve joint flexibility. Plus, it strengthens surrounding muscles. It also enhances overall joint health.

2. Medications:

  1. Pain Relievers:
  • Acetaminophen: Effective for pain management. But should be used cautiously to avoid liver issues.

2. Topical Pain Relievers:

  • Creams or Patches: Applied directly to the skin, they can provide localised relief without affecting the entire body.

3. Analgesics:

  • Opioids: Reserved for severe pain and usually considered when other medications aren't effective. However, their use is carefully monitored due to the risk of dependence.

3. Physical Therapy:

  • Tailored Exercise Programs: Physical therapists design personalised exercise programs that focus on strengthening muscles around the knee, improving flexibility, and enhancing joint function.
  • Manual Therapy: Techniques such as massage or joint manipulation may be employed to alleviate pain and improve mobility.

4. Assistive Devices:

  • Braces and Canes: Supportive devices like braces or canes can help reduce strain on the knee joint, providing stability and support during movement.
  • Shoe Inserts: Orthotic inserts may be recommended to improve alignment and reduce pressure on the knee.

5. Injections:

  1. Corticosteroid Injections:
  • Purpose: Provide short-term relief by reducing inflammation and easing pain.
  • Application: Administered directly into the affected joint.
  • Considerations: Limited frequency of use due to potential side effects and long-term relief varies among individuals.

2. Hyaluronic Acid Injections:

  • Purpose: Improve joint lubrication and reduce pain.
  • Application: Injected into the joint space.
  • Considerations: Effects may last longer than corticosteroid injections, and they're often considered for individuals who haven't responded well to other treatments.

6. Surgical Options:

  • Arthroscopy: In less severe cases, arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure, involves removing damaged cartilage or loose fragments, contributing to pain relief.
  • Partial or Total Knee Replacement: For advanced cases where conservative measures prove insufficient, surgical interventions like partial or total knee replacement may be recommended to replace the damaged joint with prosthetic components.


In conclusion, knee osteoarthritis is a common joint condition caused by factors like ageing, injuries, obesity, and genetics, leading to the gradual breakdown of protective cartilage. Recognisable by persistent knee pain and reduced mobility, timely consultation with a doctor is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective management. Treatment for osteoarthritis, including lifestyle changes, medications, and sometimes surgery, offers ways to alleviate symptoms and improve overall joint health. Understanding and addressing osteoarthritis early empowers individuals to navigate its challenges, ensuring a better quality of life with optimal joint well-being.