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Non-operative treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee

Osteoarthritis is not uncommon, in fact it effects 27% of people younger than 70 years of age, and 44% of people 80 years or older 1. It is a condition where the knee joint slowly wears out. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are measures that can be taken before surgery is considered. Many of these measure can be effective in either putting surgery off or even keeping it from being necessary. Your doctor, in close collaboration with you, will be able to help you make these decisions.

Non-surgery options might include:

  • Proper use of pain medication - often times over the counter medicines can work well, other times prescribed medications are better choices
  • Exercise - Exercise has been shown to be helpful in almost all chronic conditions, this is no different for knees. In fact, activities like strength training, walking, bicycling, and water exercise can be very helpful for range of motion and better movement.
  • Weight control - Proper weight management is one of the most important things that can be done. The less weight you are carrying, the easier the load on the knee.

When you see your doctor, you should be prepared to discuss proper medications, appropriate exercises and weight management. This means you should prepare for your doctor visit by:

  • Clearly describing your symptoms – how long you have had them and when they are most painful
  • Providing a complete list of medications you are taking – this should include both health supplements, over the counter remedies and vitamins. Make a list of all of the questions you have for your doctor (e.g., What treatments do you suggest? Are there any side effects I might expect? What should be my expectations for this treatment? If this treatment doesn’t work, what are my options?)

Hint: Writing notes down for your doctor BEFORE coming to the office is most helpful

1 Arthritis Rheum. 1987 Aug;30(8):914-8.