Osteoarthritis (OA) of the Knee

What is osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee?

Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease or “wear and teararthritis, is the most common form of arthritis. In OA, there is a breakdown over time of the cartilage within a joint. Cartilage is a protective layer of tissue that coats the bones in a joint. Once this cartilage is completely worn down from OA the bones then begin to rub together which can be very damaging to the joint. OA most commonly occurs in the joints of the hands, knees, hips, and spine. This continuous wearing down of cartilage and bone can lead to pain, stiffness, and swelling which can be debilitating to everyday life.
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OA of the knee occurs when one experiences OA in one or both of their knee joints. Since the knee is a weight-bearing joint it is a very common place to get OA. One of the main symptoms that someone will experience is pain. The pain is caused by friction between the bones that occurs as the protective cartilage is worn away. The pain they experience may be a chronic low intensity pain with more intense flare-ups or the pain may just come and go. People with OA of the knee also often experience pain during activity or movements such as bending, kneeling, walking upstairs, or squatting. Their stiffness and pain can be worse in the morning when they first wake up or after other long periods of inactivity. 
There are five stages of knee OA based on severity:
  • Stage 0: Normal, healthy knee
  • Stage 1: Minor bone spur growth. Bone spurs are abnormal, boney growths that form when bones meet each other within the joint.
  • Stage 2: Mild
  • Stage 3: Moderate
  • Stage 4: Severe
Risk factors
  • Age (being over 45)
  • Being overweight or obese (extra weight puts more stress on the joints)
  • Sex (OA is more common in women)
  • Joint injuries (having a previous injury to a joint may increase the risk of developing OA in that joint)
  • Certain occupations that may cause repeated stress on joints
  • Bone deformities
  • Genetics
To diagnose OA of the knee your doctor will do a medical history and physical exam, focusing on the range of motion of your knee joint as well as any pain or swelling you may be experiencing. Some methods to diagnose OA include:
  • Imaging tests such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for loss of cartilage, damage to the bones, or bone spurs
  • Blood tests to rule out any other causes of joint pain
  • Joint fluid analysis is used to examine the joint fluid (synovial fluid) to look for any signs of inflammation or possible infection
Knee OA is a progressive disease with no definitive cure. Pain control methods can be helpful in managing symptoms. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment the better the outlook is for preserving joint function. Some common treatments for OA of the knee include:
  • Physical therapy and exercise
  • Occupational therapy
  • Knee replacement surgery
  • Cortisone injections
  • Over the counter pain medications
  • Lubrication injections
  • Realigning bones (knee osteotomy)
  • OA affects over 30 million adults in the United States
  • OA is more common in women than men - especially over age 50
  • Knee OA is the leading cause of disability in people over age 50 in the US
  • Almost half of Americans will experience knee OA symptoms in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 23% of overweight and 31% of obese adults reported having been diagnosed with a form of arthritis 
about osteoarthritis (OA)  of the knee

  • "Osteoarthritis Fact Sheet." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 06 Jul. 2017. Web. 8 Aug. 2017.
  • “Osteoarthritis.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Sep. 2015. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.
  • “What is Knee Osteoarthritis?” Arthritis-health. Arthritis-health Trusted Information for Arthritis, 14 Jun. 2011. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.
  • “Osteoarthritis.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus, 17 May. 2017. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.
  • “Arthritis Related Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 8 Aug. 2017.
  • “Stages of Osteoarthritis of the Knee.” Healthline. Healthline Media, 04 Jan. 2017. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.
  • “Knee Osteoarthritis Treatment.” Arthritis-health. Arthritis-health Trusted Information for Arthritis, 14 Jun. 2011. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.


More than 10 million Americans are affected by knee osteoarthritis. The condition is seen most often in people age 45 and over, as cartilage wears away through wear and tear. Most common complaints are joint swelling, stiffness, and pain. There is no way to cure osteoarthritis, as it is a chronic condition, but there are plenty of ways to treat/manage pain and prevent further injury:
osteoarthritis knee pain & prevention


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