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Knee Pain and Available Treatments

The most common cause of knee pain in the U.S. is a condition known as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. The CDC estimates that approximately 32 million Americans suffer with osteoarthritis. In Georgia, the CDC estimates that about 25% of people suffer from a form of arthritis. The dangers of osteoarthritis are more than pain. In fact, it is estimated that patients with osteoarthritis are 1.5 times more likely to die than the rest of the population. However, osteoarthritis is not a dead sentence. Actually, other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes are major risk factors for developing osteoarthritis. 


What causes osteoarthritis of the knee?


Osteoarthritis of the knee is the gradual destruction of cartilage in the knee joint. Cartilage is softer than bone. The cartilage in the knee provides a cushion in the joint - it keeps one bone from hitting or rubbing against another. When the cartilage is completely destroyed, the bones hit and rub one another, causing pain. 

What are some other causes of knee pain?


Osteoarthritis, although the most common cause of knee pain, is not the only cause. There are other possible reasons while your knee may be causing you discomfort. Some other causes of knee pain include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Infectious arthritis

  • Injury of one of the ligaments of the knee

  • Tendonitis

  • Bursitis

  • Baker's cyst

Is there a cure for osteoarthritis?

Currently, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease, which means it progressively gets worse with time. However, there are many treatments that have been developed that may help to reduce or eliminate pain and improve your quality of life.  

What treatments are available for osteoarthritis of the knee?

There are tons of available treatments to treat knee pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. Initially, your doctor may simply recommend over-the-counter medication for pain. Traditional medical treatments include:

  • Weight loss

  • Prescription medications

  • Physical therapy

  • Exercise

  • Joint injections, such as steroids

  • Knee braces

  • Surgery

Are there any alternatives to the traditional knee osteoarthritis treatments?

Yes. Some alternative treatments for knee pain secondary to osteoarthritis include:

My doctor said that my knee is "bone on bone". What does that mean? Do I need surgery?

When doctors refer to "bone on bone", they are typically referring to a level of severity of osteoarthritis. As you can see in the image below, "bone on bone" means most of the cartilage in the knee has already broken down. This is the most severe stage of arthritis; however, not all people with knee osteoarthritis undergo surgery. 

If you suffer from knee pain because of osteoarthritis, you should have a discussion with a licensed physician about which treatment options are the best for you.

What causes people do develop osteoarthritis of the knee?

Knee osteoarthritis has been studied extensively in the U.S. There have been numerous risk factors associated with osteoarthritis, including:

  • Weight. More Americans are heavier than ever. Excess weight may cause more stress and injury on the cartilage within the knee than the knee is capable of supporting. Some studies suggest as much as 50% of knee pain associated with osteoarthritis is attributable to excess weight.

  • Age. It may be no surprise that the chance of developing arthritis increases with age.

  • Injury. People with a previous knee injury, with or without surgery, are more likely to develop arthritis in the knee. The same is true for people who engage in repetitive levels of activity causing excessive stress or overuse of the joint.

  • Sex. Women over 50 are more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee.

  • Genetics. If you have a family member with arthritis, there's a higher chance you will have it.

  • Race/ethnicity. For some unknown reason, some Asian populations are less likely to develop knee osteoarthritis. 

Remember, that listed above are risk factors, not causes. This means that there is a substantial correlation between what's listed above and the development of arthritis in the knee. That does not necessarily imply a cause of arthritis. The truth is, science and medicine still do not know with 100% certainty what specifically causes osteoarthritis.

Research on knee osteoarthritis

Heidari B. Knee osteoarthritis prevalence, risk factors, pathogenesis and features: Part I. Caspian J Intern Med. 2011 Spring;2(2):205-12. PMID: 24024017; PMCID: PMC3766936.

Are you ready for knee surgery? If not, let us help.

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