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Treatment & Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Treatment for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Osteoarthritis of the knee has no clear cure or treatment, but treatments are given and recommended to ease the symptoms signs which are experienced and to decrease the arthritis from becoming worse.[1]

Treatment for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Medicines to Treat Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Medicines for osteoarthritis of the knee are given and they are analgesics, painkillers to ease the stiffness and pain. It does not repair the joint damage nor has any effect on arthritis.

  • Using painkillers occasionally is best. Especially on experiencing severe pain associated with knee osteoarthritis.
  • Paracetamol is the best painkiller, yet consult your doctor and take the right dosage. Taking 2 tablets a day for 3 or 4 times is recommended as many people take 1 tablet for a day and that is too little when there is acute pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee. This paracetamol may be purchased from any supermarket or a chemist.
  • Severe pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee may be eased by taking combined painkillers such that it has paracetamol and codeine like drug such as co-codamol and co-dydramol. These are good painkillers and even if there are side effects it may be constipation and dizziness, nothing more serious.[2]

Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

NSAIDs for osteoarthritis of the knee may include naproxen or ibuprofen. This is recommended when there in stiffness and pain due to inflammation.

  • NSAIDs may include side-effects, but precautions will be handled by your doctor to reduce the risk. Doctors suggest lowest effective dosage for the shortest time and immediately prescribe a proton pump inhibitor, another drug that helps protect your stomach from digestive problems.
  • NSAIDs also include the risk of a stroke or heart attack, so cautiousness is exercised by your doctor. They take absolute care while prescribing medicines if you have other health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.[3]

Gels and Creams Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory are an excellent option for osteoarthritis of the knee if you experience trouble with NSAIDs tablets.[4]

  • Gels and creams are directly applied to painful knee joints three times a day. Mere applying is not enough to absorb through the skin and so rubbing is advised.
  • The gels and creams are useful as they are well tolerated as it enters your bloodstream and very less is absorbed.
  • You will know in a short time if it eases your pain.

Capsaicin cream prepared from the pepper plant (capsicum) is regarded as well-tolerated and effective painkiller.

  • People experience burning or warming sensation with initial use, but on constant use it becomes acceptable
  • Capsaicin cream must be applied thrice a day and is available only with prescription.
  • After few days, there is pain relief and it must be continued for two weeks at least.[5]

Powerful Painkillers for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Power painkillers such as anti-inflammatories or opioids, may be recommended for osteoarthritis of the knee if there is severe pain and other medications fail to work.

  • These are available only with prescription.
  • Strong painkillers may result in side-effects such as dizziness, nausea and confusion. You have to visit your doctor and report the side-effects experienced.
  • Some opioids can give relief from pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee as it is given as a plaster patch that is worn directly on the skin.

These treatments for osteoarthritis of the knee work in different ways; so you may combine them to ensure greater pain relief. You can ask your doctor or chemist for advice and try some safe combinations.

In case there is trouble in opening the containers, request the pharmacist to transfer the drugs in a convenient container that is also child-resistant.

Steroid Injections for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Steroid injections are given directly in the painful osteoarthritis knee joint.

  • These injections work within a day and improve pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee that can be for several weeks or months.
  • These injections are given for very painful osteoarthritis of the knee or to shed calcium crystals so that you do not miss some immediate important event.[6]

Drugs employed in treating rheumatoid arthritis, methotrexate, can sometimes be used to treat osteoarthritis of the knee (ask your doctor before taking such medicines). Another trial is about considering spironolactone, a drug that is regarded to be an effective treatment.

Other Treatments for Relieving Pain Caused by Osteoarthritis of the Knee

  1. Cold or Warm Pads for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

    Application of cold or warm pads on the affected knee relieves pain and stiffness. This can be heat lamps, hot water bottle or some re-heatable pad considered to be effective. Ice pack also eases knee pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee. Avoid applying too cold or hot pads on the skin directly.

  2. Hyaluronic acid injections for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

    Hyaluronic acid injections assist in lubricating your knee joints. These are recommended to be given when steroid injections fail to ease the pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.

    • This may be injected as a course of injections or as a single injection
    • This treatment form is not widely used as it is not received approval by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. So it appears less convincing.
  3. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

    (TENS) Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is used for knee osteoarthritis pain relief, though research evidence does not approve it for everyone. A TENS machine is an electronic device that propels pulses through pads to the nerve endings on placing it on the skin. This device gives a tingling sensation to modify the pain messages that reaches the brain. TENS machines is available in major stores and pharmacies, but a physiotherapist can loan you one machine so that you try it prior to deciding on buying a new one.[7]

  4. Knee Braces for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

    Knee braces are highly popular and there is substantial evidence promoting the use for osteoarthritis of the knee. There are many types of knee braces helping the kneecap and permits moving correctly. You can buy from chemists and sports shops the knee braces, but speaking to your doctor or physiotherapist must be prioritized. They may recommend the best ones or provide braces for you.

Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

People experiencing osteoarthritis of the knee do not undergo any type of surgery. Yet, if the stiffness and pain in your knee is severe, your doctor may suggest a surgery for osteoarthritis knee, but this is the last resort. Surgery improves joint alignment as it helps moving your joints smoothly and also eases pain. There are some techniques employed and they include:

  1. Arthroscopy Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

    Arthroscopy surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee helps in reducing the stiffness and pain caused due to osteoarthritis of the knee. In this process, the surgeon inserts a lighted, thin tube by making a small cut in the joint affected. Using small surgical instruments, doctors can view the damage and thus remove cartilage loose pieces, damaged tissues and smooth the knee rough surfaces. In this way arthritis pain is eased temporarily. However, it is not confirmed if this is better than physical therapy (PT) and medication.

  2. Osteotomy Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

    Osteoarthritis of the knee in younger people may undergo an osteotomy as it preserves the knee joint. This is a procedure where a bone section is cut and removed, thus improving the stability and joint alignment and the patient can delay having a joint replacement surgery.

  3. Joint Fusion Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

    Joint fusion surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee focuses on eliminating the knee stiffness and pain. This procedure involves the surgeon to remove the joints completely and is held with pins, screws or plates. This helps as the bones overtimes fuse together forming one piece, though the joint will not be flexible as before.

  4. Arthroplasty or Joint Replacement Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

    Joint replacement surgery also known as arthroplasty, helps in osteoarthritis of the knee. A worn-out knee needs to be replaced with a metal or plastic version. If there is osteoarthritis in the joint, having a partial knee replacement helps instead of undergoing a full replacement of the joint.[8]


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 30, 2021

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