Treatment Options

Although osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is not currently curable, there are many treatment options available that can help you reduce pain and maintain an active lifestyle. OA is usually managed with a combination of approaches, including medications, lifestyle changes, injections, and sometimes surgery. Click on the topics below to learn more.1

Lifestyle changes

There are several lifestyle changes you can make that may help manage the pain associated with OA of the knee.

  • Exercise/physical therapy
    Your doctor can help you design an exercise plan that is right for you or refer you to a physical therapist.2 For recommended exercises, click here
  • Weight loss (if you are overweight)
    Your knees carry your body weight, and this can make osteoarthritis worse. Reducing your weight reduces that burden on your knees.2 For more information on weight loss, click here
  • Dietary change
    Certain foods have properties that may help reduce pain and swelling.3,4 For more information on nutrition, click here
Oral and topical medications

Medications that can help treat the pain of OA of the knee include:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as2,5
    — Aspirin
    — Acetaminophen
    — Ibuprofen
    — Naproxen
  • Prescription pain medications, such as2,5
    — Celecoxib
    — Mild narcotic pain relievers, usually for short-term use only, as
    they may be addictive and lead to dependence
  • Topical pain relievers2,5
    — Creams or sprays

There are 2 types of injections commonly used in the treatment of OA knee pain:

  • Corticosteroid injections
    Antiswelling (anti-inflammatory) hormones that can decrease pain2
  • Hyaluronic acid (HA) injections, also called viscosupplementation (such as EUFLEXXA) HA is a natural, gel-like substance found in the fluid of a healthy knee, which cushions and protects the joint. In OA, there may not be enough HA, or the quality of the HA in the joint and surrounding tissues may decrease. Doctors can give patients with OA injections of HA similar to natural HA. For more information on EUFLEXXA, an HA that can treat OA knee pain, click here6

Surgery may also be an option in treating OA of the knee and is usually a last resort when other treatments are not working. A surgeon can remove loose bone and cartilage and reposition or smooth out bones. In addition, a surgeon can perform a total or partial knee replacement, in which all or some of a joint is replaced with an artificial one.2,7

Doctors who treat OA of the knee

If you suspect that you have OA of the knee, you will probably see your primary care doctor first. He or she may then refer you to a specialist. Specialists who have expertise in OA include:

  • Orthopaedic surgeons (or orthopaedists)
    Surgeons who are experts in bones and the skeletal system2
  • Rheumatologists
    Doctors who specialize in treating arthritis and conditions that affect joints, muscles, and bones2
  • Sports medicine physicians
    Doctors who, like orthopedic surgeons, are experts in bones, muscles, and the skeletal system, but who focus on use of exercise in treating disease8
  • Physical therapists
    Healthcare providers with special training in exercise and therapy to improve joint function2

References: 1. Parmet S, Lynm C, Glass RM. Osteoarthritis of the knee. JAMA. 2003;289:1068. 2. US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. Handout on Health: Osteoarthritis. NIH Publication No. 06-4617. July 2002, revised May 2006. 3. Rakel DP, Rindfleisch A. Inflammation: nutritional, botanical, and mind-body influences. South Med J. 2005;98:303-310. 4. Bruen J. Anti-inflammation diet for osteoarthritis. Livestrong website. Accessed May 22, 2013. 5. US Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Managing Osteoarthritis Pain With Medicines. AHRQ Publication No. 11(12)-EHC076-A. January, 2012. 6. EUFLEXXA [package insert]. Parsippany, NJ: Ferring Pharmaceuticals Inc; 2011. 7. WebMD website. Osteoarthritis of the knee (degenerative arthritis of the knee). Reviewed May 16, 2012. Accessed May 22, 2013. 8. McCrory P. What is sports and exercise medicine? Br J Sports Med. 2006;40:955-957.