Treatment

Treatments will vary, depending upon what exactly is causing your knee pain.

Medications

Your doctor may prescribe medications to help relieve pain and to treat underlying conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

Therapy

Strengthening the muscles around your knee will make it more stable. Training is likely to focus on the muscles on the front of your thigh (quadriceps) and the muscles in the back of your thigh (hamstrings). Correcting suboptimal movement patterns is also helpful, along with establishing good technique during your sport or activity. Exercises to improve your balance also are important.

Arch supports, sometimes with wedges on one side of the heel, can help to shift pressure away from the side of the knee most affected by osteoarthritis. In certain conditions, different types of braces may be used to help protect and support the knee joint.

Injections

In some cases, your doctor may suggest injecting medications or other substances directly into your joint. Examples include:

  • Corticosteroids. Injections of a corticosteroid drug into your knee joint may help reduce the symptoms of an arthritis flare and provide pain relief that lasts a few months. These injections aren't effective in all cases.
  • Hyaluronic acid. A thick fluid, similar to the fluid that naturally lubricates joints, hyaluronic acid can be injected into your knee to improve mobility and ease pain. Although study results have been mixed about the effectiveness of this treatment, relief from one or a series of shots may last as long as six months.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP). PRP contains a concentration of many different growth factors that appear to reduce inflammation and promote healing. These types of injections tend to work better in younger people and in people with mild arthritis.

Surgery

If you have an injury that may require surgery, it's usually not necessary to have the operation immediately. Before making any decision, consider the pros and cons of both nonsurgical rehabilitation and surgical reconstruction in relation to what's most important to you. If you choose to have surgery, your options may include:

  • Arthroscopic surgery. Depending on your injury, your doctor may be able to examine and repair your joint damage using a fiber-optic camera and long, narrow tools inserted through just a few small incisions around your knee. Arthroscopy may be used to remove loose bodies from your knee joint, remove or repair damaged cartilage (especially if it is causing your knee to lock), and reconstruct torn ligaments.
  • Partial knee replacement surgery. In this procedure (unicompartmental arthroplasty), your surgeon replaces only the most damaged portion of your knee with parts made of metal and plastic. The surgery can usually be performed through small incisions, so you're likely to heal more quickly than you are with surgery to replace your entire knee.
  • Total knee replacement. In this procedure, your surgeon cuts away damaged bone and cartilage from your thighbone, shinbone and kneecap, and replaces it with an artificial joint made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers.

Alternative medicine

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin. Study results have been mixed about the effectiveness of these supplements for relieving osteoarthritis pain. People who have moderate to severe arthritis pain appear to get the most benefit from these supplements.
  • Acupuncture. Research suggests that acupuncture may help relieve knee pain caused by osteoarthritis. Acupuncture involves the placement of hair-thin needles into your skin at specific places on your body.