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Arthritis of the Knee

​​​​​Three basic types of arthritis may affect the knee joint.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of knee arthritis. OA is usually a slowly progressive degenerative disease in which the joint cartilage gradually wears away. It most often affects middle-aged and older people.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory type of arthritis that can destroy the joint cartilage. RA can occur at any age. RA generally affects both knees.

Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the knee. This type of arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis and may develop years after a fracture, ligament injury or meniscus tear.

Treatments for arthritis

Non-surgical

  • Lifestyle modifications including losing weight, switching from running or jumping exercises to swimming or cycling, and minimizing activities such as climbing stairs that can aggravate the condition.
  • Exercises that can help increase range of motion and flexibility as well as help strengthen the muscles in the leg.
  • Using supportive devices such as a cane, wearing energy-absorbing shoes or inserts, or wearing a brace or knee sleeve can be helpful.
  • Other measures may include applications of heat or ice, water exercises, liniments or elastic bandages.

Medication

Because every patient is different, and because not all people respond the same to medications, an orthopedic surgeon will develop a program for your specific condition.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications can include aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help reduce swelling in the joint.
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin (kon-dro'-i-tin) sulfate are oral supplements that may relieve the pain of osteoarthritis.
  • Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents that can be injected into the joint.
  • Hyaluronate (hi-a-lou'-ron-ate) therapy consists of a series of injections designed to change the character of the joint fluid.
  • Special medical treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are managed by a rheumatologist.

Surgery

If your arthritis does not respond to either non-surgical treatments or medication, a doctor may recommend that you have surgery.

  • Arthroscopic surgery: Arthroscopic surgery uses fiber optic technology to enable the surgeon to see inside the joint and clean it of debris or repair torn cartilage.
  • Osteotomy: An osteotomy cuts the shinbone (tibia) or the thighbone (femur) to improve the alignment of the knee joint.
  • Arthroplasty (joint replacement): During a total or partial knee replacement an orthopaedic surgeon will remove the damaged cartilage and bone and then position new metal and plastic joint surfaces to restore the alignment and function of the knee.
  • Cartilage Grafting: Cartilage grafting is possible for some knees with limited or contained cartilage loss from trauma or arthritis. Learn more about knee ​cartilage restoration​.

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