Knee Osteoarthritis Treatments: Insights and Solutions

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Treatment of knee osteoarthritis (OA) depends on the stage of the disease. In the early stages of the disease, non-surgical treatments, minor surgical procedures, and knee injections predominate. When knee degeneration has become moderate to severe, surgical treatments become the predominant option. Do discuss with your surgeon the options available for your specific condition.

Non-surgical Options

Physical therapy

Physiotherapy is an essential part of the non-surgical treatment of osteoarthritis. Your physiotherapist may use heat treatments, range of motion exercises as well as targeted muscle strengthening to improve the function of your knee. While there is no evidence that this can help to slow down or reverse osteoarthritis, it can lessen the symptoms of osteoarthritis, and allow better knee function.

Lifestyle modifications

Osteoarthritis can impact many aspects of your life. Learning to cope with the changes brought about by osteoarthritis can help to alleviate symptoms, and can sometimes prevent injury. Modifications in your lifestyle are hence an important part of osteoarthritis treatment.

These can include,

  • The use of a walking aid, such as a stick or modified umbrella
  • Weight management via changes in diet, and control of metabolic diseases such as diabetes
  • Engagement in moderate age-appropriate exercise
  • Modification of the home environment to improve comfort and safety for patients with knee problems

Pain medication

Your doctor may prescribe pain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), paracetamol (Acetaminophen/Tylenol/Panadol), and opiate medication such as tramadol.

These medications can be used to alleviate most of the pain caused by osteoarthritis, but should be used judiciously due to possible side effects such as stomach ulcers and kidney damage from NSAIDs. Do not take more than the prescribed dosage and frequency, and inform the doctor if you feel unwell after taking such medications.

If you find yourself relying too much on such medication, consider other forms of treatment, as pain medications alone cannot heal your knee, and may not be sufficient to control your pain.

Oral supplements

There are a variety of oral supplements available for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, there is currently no evidence that shows that taking any oral supplements can heal knees affected by osteoarthritis. Some patients may however find that their knee pain is slightly relieved after taking these supplements. Most of such supplements are safer than traditional pain medication, and your doctor may suggest that you try these supplements to see if it helps in relieving your knee pain.

Knee Injections for the treatment of pain

Intra-Articular Hyaluronic Acid (IAHA)

Intra-Articular Hyaluronic Acid Injections are injections filled with Hyaluronic Acid, that are injected into the joints.

Hyaluronic Acid is a thick fluid. It is similar to the fluid in your body that naturally lubricates the joints.

This helps patients feel less pain, improves mobility, and reduces stiffness in joints. These results may last as long as 6 months.

However, the specific ways how it manages to do so are still unclear, and study results have been mixed about the effectiveness of this treatment.


Cortisone is a hormone that is naturally produced in your body and is often used to reduce inflammation.

It is effective for short-term pain relief in Osteoarthritis patients, however, Cortisone injections may worsen joint damage over time, so this option may not be suitable for all patients.

Autologous blood protein injections  

Autologous protein solutions (APS) injections are a newer category of knee injections that are derived from your own blood. This technique concentrates on anti-inflammatory factors which are used to prevent inflammation in the knee. Current evidence suggests that inflammation in the knee is one of the factors that exacerbates the worsening of knee OA. The benefit therefore of injecting APS solutions into the knee is that it may slow down the development of more severe knee OA.

Offloading Braces

In most patients with knee OA, the body weight is carried on the inner portion of the knee joint. Consequently, most patients with knee OA suffer from medial (inner) compartment knee OA. Such patients would benefit from the shifting of their body weight so that the weight is borne on the outer part of the knee instead. This can be achieved by a category of knee braces known as offloading braces. Depending on your specific needs, your surgeon may prescribe these braces as part of your treatment.

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Sarah Taylor

Obstetrics & Gynaecology