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A knee joint affected by arthritis may be painful and inflamed. Generally, the pain develops gradually over time, although sudden onset is also possible. There are other symptoms, as well:. During your appointment, your doctor will talk with you about your symptoms and medical history, conduct a physical examination, and possibly order diagnostic tests, such as x-rays or blood tests.

Left In this x-ray of a normal knee, the space between the bones indicates healthy cartilage arrows. Right This x-ray of an arthritic knee shows severe loss of joint space. Your doctor may also recommend blood tests to determine which type of arthritis you have. With some types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, blood tests will help with a proper diagnosis.


There is no cure for arthritis but there are a number of treatments that may help relieve the pain and disability it can cause. As with other arthritic conditions, initial treatment of arthritis of the knee is nonsurgical. Your doctor may recommend a range of treatment options. Lifestyle modifications. Some changes in your daily life can protect your knee joint and slow the progress of arthritis.

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Physical therapy. Specific exercises can help increase range of motion and flexibility, as well as help strengthen the muscles in your leg. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help develop an individualized exercise program that meets your needs and lifestyle. Assistive devices. Using devices such as a cane, wearing shock-absorbing shoes or inserts, or wearing a brace or knee sleeve can be helpful.

A brace assists with stability and function, and may be especially helpful if the arthritis is centered on one side of the knee. There are two types of braces that are often used for knee arthritis: An "unloader" brace shifts weight away from the affected portion of the knee, while a "support" brace helps support the entire knee load. Other remedies. Applying heat or ice, using pain-relieving ointments or creams, or wearing elastic bandages to provide support to the knee may provide some relief from pain. Several types of drugs are useful in treating arthritis of the knee.

Because people respond differently to medications, your doctor will work closely with you to determine the medications and dosages that are safe and effective for you. Alternative therapies. Many alternative forms of therapy are unproven, but may be helpful to try, provided you find a qualified practitioner and keep your doctor informed of your decision. Alternative therapies to treat pain include the use of acupuncture and magnetic pulse therapy. Acupuncture uses fine needles to stimulate specific body areas to relieve pain or temporarily numb an area. Although it is used in many parts of the world and evidence suggests that it can help ease the pain of arthritis, there are few scientific studies of its effectiveness.

Be sure your acupuncturist is certified, and do not hesitate to ask about his or her sterilization practices. Magnetic pulse therapy is painless and works by applying a pulsed signal to the knee, which is placed in an electromagnetic field. Like many alternative therapies, magnetic pulse therapy has yet to be proven. Your doctor may recommend surgery if your pain from arthritis causes disability and is not relieved with nonsurgical treatment.

As with all surgeries, there are some risks and possible complications with different knee procedures.

What is arthritis?

Your doctor will discuss the possible complications with you before your operation. During arthroscopy, doctors use small incisions and thin instruments to diagnose and treat joint problems. Arthroscopic surgery is not often used to treat arthritis of the knee. In cases where osteoarthritis is accompanied by a degenerative meniscal tear, arthroscopic surgery may be recommended to treat the torn meniscus. Cartilage grafting. Normal, healthy cartilage tissue may be taken from another part of the knee or from a tissue bank to fill a hole in the articular cartilage.

This procedure is typically considered only for younger patients who have small areas of cartilage damage. The joint lining damaged by rheumatoid arthritis is removed to reduce pain and swelling. In a knee osteotomy, either the tibia shinbone or femur thighbone is cut and then reshaped to relieve pressure on the knee joint. Knee osteotomy is used when you have early-stage osteoarthritis that has damaged just one side of the knee joint.

By shifting your weight off the damaged side of the joint, an osteotomy can relieve pain and significantly improve function in your arthritic knee. Total or partial knee replacement arthroplasty. Sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night and taking naps during the day can help you recover from a flare-up more quickly, and may even help prevent flare-ups.

Avoid staying in one position for too long. Avoid positions or movements that place extra stress on your sore joints.

Change your home to make activities easier. For example, install grab bars in the shower, the tub, and near the toilet.


Try stress-reducing activities, such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi. Eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, which contain important vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold-water fish salmon, mackerel, and herring , flaxseed, rapeseed canola oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

Apply capsaicin cream over your painful joints. You may feel improvement after applying the cream for 3 to 7 days. Lose weight, if you are overweight. Weight loss can greatly improve joint pain in the legs and feet. Use a cane to reduce pain from hip, knee, ankle, or foot arthritis. Over-the-counter medicines: Acetaminophen Tylenol is often the first medicine tried to reduce pain. Take up to 3, mg a day 2 arthritis-strength Tylenol every 8 hours. To prevent damage to your liver, do not take more than the recommended dose.

Since multiple medicines are available without a prescription that also contain acetaminophen, you will need to include them in the 3, mg per day maximum. Also, avoid alcohol when taking acetaminophen. Aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDs that can relieve arthritis pain.

What are the causes and types of arthritis?

However, they can carry risks when used for a long time. Possible side effects include heart attack, stroke, stomach ulcers, bleeding from the digestive tract, and kidney damage. Prescription medicines: Corticosteroids "steroids" help reduce inflammation. They may be injected into painful joints or given by mouth. They include methotrexate, sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine, and leflunomide. Biologics are used for the treatment of autoimmune arthritis especially rheumatoid arthritis RA.

They include etanercept Enbrel , infliximab Remicade , adalimumab Humira , abatacept Orencia , rituximab Rituxan , golimumab Simponi , certolizumab Cimzia , and tocilizumab Actemra. These drugs can improve the quality of life for many people, but can have serious side effects.

This is a medicine taken by mouth that is now approved for treating RA. For gout, allopurinol Zyloprim , febuxostat Uloric or probenecid Benemid may be used to lower uric acid. For osteoarthritis of the knee, injections of steroids Kenalog or hyaluronic acid Synvisc may provide short-term pain relief. A knee brace may also help. This may include: Joint replacement, such as a total knee joint replacement. Outlook Prognosis. A few arthritis-related disorders can be completely cured with proper treatment. Polyarticular JIA, or polyarthritis, affects five or more joints. It can develop at any age during childhood.

The symptoms of polyarticular JIA are similar to the symptoms of adult rheumatoid arthritis. The condition is often accompanied by a rash and a high temperature of 38C Systemic onset JIA begins with symptoms such as a fever, rash, lethargy a lack of energy and enlarged glands. Enthesitis-related arthritis is a type of juvenile arthritis that affects older boys or teenagers. It can cause pain in the soles of the feet and around the knee and hip joints, where the ligaments attach to the bone. There's no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help slow down the condition.

Recommended treatments include:. Living with arthritis isn't easy and carrying out simple, everyday tasks can often be painful and difficult. However, there are many things you can do to make sure you live a healthy lifestyle. A range of services and benefits are also available. This is particularly the case if arthritis is diagnosed and treated at an early stage. You may find work challenging, but your employer should help you with the training and support you need. Help is also available if your arthritis is so severe that you're unable to work.

Eating healthily will give you all the nutrients you need and help you maintain a healthy weight.

Read more about how to have a healthy, balanced diet. If you're overweight, losing weight can really help you cope with arthritis.


Too much weight places excess pressure on the joints in your hips, knees, ankles and feet, leading to increased pain and mobility problems. If your arthritis is painful, you may not feel like exercising. However, being active can help reduce and prevent pain. As long as you do the right type and level of exercise for your condition, your arthritis won't get any worse.

Arthritis: Causes, Signs, and Diagnosis

Your GP can advise about the type and level of exercise that's right for you. If you have arthritis, it's important to look after your joints so there's no further damage. For example, try to reduce the stress on your joints while carrying out everyday tasks like moving and lifting. If you have arthritis, carrying out tasks around the home can be a challenge. However, making some practical changes to your home and changing the way you work should make things easier.

Depending on the exact nature of your condition, your GP may be able to refer you to an NHS occupational therapist.