Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis

Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA), one of the primary causes of physical disability, affects approximately 32 million adults in the USA (1). In 2020, knee OA, a common type of OA, was diagnosed in 2 out of every 10 individuals worldwide (2).

Knee OA results from the wearing out of the cartilage, which acts as a cushion to the knee joint, resulting in bone-on-bone contact. This causes restricted joint movement, pain, and stiffness. The first-line treatment for knee OA includes the over-the-counter pain-relieving medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil), etc. Usually, the treatment depends on the severity of pain and its impact on your daily physical movement. There are several treatment options available that provide symptomatic relief to the patients and help slow down the disease progression. Patients with knee OA can consult their doctor to decide which of the following non-surgical and surgical options would be suitable for the treatment of knee OA:

Non-surgical treatments

The updated guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation strongly recommend the following physical, psychosocial, and mind-body approaches (3):

  1. Exercise: People with knee OA are strongly advised to do some type of low-impact exercise, such as walking, cycling, resistance training with or without elastic bands, neuromuscular training, swimming, etc. regularly for pain relief and improvement in functioning. There is no preferred form of exercise, which would provide the greatest benefit; the criteria remain the ease of performance and preference of the patient.
  2. Weight loss: Losing 5-20% of body weight has been shown to have significant benefits in relieving functional discomfort associated with knee OA.
  3. Self-efficacy and self-management programs: Patients with knee OA are strongly advised to participate in skill-building activities that induce a positive attitude, educational programs regarding the effects of medications and other joint protection measures, exercise programs, etc.
  4. Cane and knee braces: Tibiofemoral knee braces are strongly recommended to patients with knee OA to help with joint instability and movement-based activities.

Surgical Treatments

Doctors recommend surgical options to patients who have exhausted all non-invasive options and still have severe functional discomfort (4).

  • Total knee replacement surgery: This procedure involves the replacement of the affected knee joint with an artificial join
  • Knee osteotomy: This procedure involves reshaping of the tibia (leg) or femur (thigh) bones to shift the body weight off the damaged portion of the knee.
  • Arthroscopy: This is a relatively less invasive surgery that is used to diagnose and treat minor joint-related issues, such as removal of the loose cartilage, etc.
  • Arthrodesis: This surgical procedure eliminates the joint by fusing the bones together, resulting in better stability, weight-bearing capacity, etc.

If you have been experiencing pain in the knee joint or other joint, you can consult the experienced orthopaedic specialists at San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center, Inc. who will help in identifying the mode of treatment that suits you the best to lead a comfortable, functional life.


  1. Osteoarthritis (OA). Published August 4, 2020. Accessed June 6, 2021.
  2. Cui A, Li H, Wang D, Zhong J, Chen Y, Lu H. Global, regional prevalence, incidence and risk factors of knee osteoarthritis in population-based studies. EClinicalMedicine. 2020;29-30(100587):100587.
  3. Kolasinski SL, Neogi T, Hochberg MC, et al. 2019 American College of Rheumatology/Arthritis Foundation guideline for the management of osteoarthritis of the Hand, hip, and knee. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2020;72(2):149-162.
  4. de l’Escalopier N, Anract P, Biau D. Surgical treatments for osteoarthritis. Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2016;59(3):227-233.

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San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center, Inc., San Diego, CA

Phone (appointments): 619-229-3932

Phone (general inquiries): 619-229-3932

Address: 6719 Alvarado Road, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92120

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