If you are diagnosed with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, your doctor may start you on one or more different therapies to reduce your symptoms. The choice of treatments will depend on a number of factors unique to you and your health needs, including your medical history, level of pain and the impact of OA on your daily life. Most likely, your treatment plan will include a combination of therapies, as well as healthy changes to your lifestyle such as eating right and exercising more.

Here are some of the most common treatments for OA of the knee. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any kind of treatment.

Lifestyle Changes

Healthy lifestyle habits can be especially helpful to people with OA of the knee. Your doctor will probably suggest incorporating these changes into your treatment plan:

  • moderate exercise
  • weight control
  • simplify daily routines to put less stress on joints

Medications

Many people with OA take oral medications to relieve pain. Here are some of the most common:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol), an over-the-counter pain reliever, is often the first choice in treating mild to moderate OA pain
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Motrin), may be recommended to patients who are not getting relief from acetaminophen. These over-the-counter medicines sometimes cause stomach problems.
  • COX-2 inhibitors, such as celecoxib (Celebrex), are another kind of NSAID prescribed by a doctor. They cause fewer stomach problems, but may cause serious heart problems.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

Physical therapy uses exercises to condition muscles and improve flexibility and joint mobility. Occupational therapy focuses on helping you better manage your normal activities, such as walking, bathing, and dressing.

Injectable Steroids

Injectable glucocorticoids are a type of steroid that is injected directly into the joint. Steroid injections are used to temporarily relieve pain and reduce inflammation. There may be a risk of damage to cartilage, so most doctors limit steroid injections to three or four times a year per joint.

Viscosupplementation

In OA, the fluid inside your knee joint that provides lubrication and cushioning can become degraded. Viscosupplements are also injected directly into the knee and replace this diseased knee fluid with a gel-like substance similar to that found in healthy joints. This can provide cushioning and lubricating effects and may relieve pain.

Surgery

Surgery may help you if you have severe joint pain and other therapies have not given you relief. The most common ones for treating OA of the knee are:

  • arthroscopic surgery, which is a minimally invasive procedure used to repair injury or to clean debris from a joint
  • osteotomy, which involves cutting bone to increase stability. This treatment is usually reserved for younger, more active patients whose bones are not at the correct angles.
  • knee replacement, a complex procedure that involves replacing injured or damaged parts of the knee with artificial parts.

What’s the Next Step?

The most important thing patients can do is talk to their doctors. Whether cases are mild, moderate, or severe, OA of the knee can progress and pain may worsen over time. With the right treatment, sufferers can get the pain relief needed to lead a more active life. Only your doctor can tell you what treatment is right for you.