Knee osteoarthritis surgery is a standard treatment for osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that affects the joints in your body.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, osteoarthritis of the knee is one of the five leading causes of disability among seniors. Without treatment, osteoarthritis can get worse over time.

In this article, you’ll learn about the treatment options available to treat osteoarthritis of the knee.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis disease gradually wears away the cushion layer between the bones, otherwise referred to as the cartilage.

Cartilage plays a vital role in helping your joints move smoothly, without which the bones would rub together, causing pain, stiffness, and limiting movement.

Knee joint pain and stiffness respond well to over-the-counter painkillers (analgesics) like paracetamol or co-dydramol, but these cannot help repair the damage in your knee joint.

The early indicators of knee osteoarthritis include tenderness, swelling or warmth in the knee joint, dull pain when walking or exercising, and stiffness in the joints in the early morning.

Pain may occur only after physical activity in the first stages of osteoarthritis, but there may be pain even at rest as the condition worsens. Patients often feel weak in the knee joint or hear cracking or clicking noises.

Your doctor will examine you for swelling in the joints and check if you have a limited range of motion. X-ray images may reveal a loss of space between the knee joints because of the worn-down cartilage. A treatment plan for osteoarthritis of the knee can include medical treatments and lifestyle changes.

Pain Medication for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen help control the inflammation, leading to pain. The lowest effective dose of the NSAIDs for the shortest possible time is recommended. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory creams and gels applied directly on the painful joints may be preferred by some who cannot take NSAID tablets.

Many people report effective pain relief with capsaicin creams made from the pepper plant (capsicum), but they are only available with a prescription and need to be applied three times a day. You may feel a warming or burning sensation when you first use it, but this generally wears off after several days. The pain relief begins after using it for a few days.

Suppose you have moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis of the knee. In that case, your doctor can prescribe more powerful drugs like opioids/anti-inflammatories to reduce severe pain and provide you with pain relief for longer. These drugs may cause side effects, like nausea, dizziness, and confusion, so report any problems to your doctor.

When oral medications don’t work, corticosteroid injections are given directly into the knee joint. It begins to work within a day to stop swelling and helps the pain recede for weeks to months. You could get injections several times a year, depending on your pain level.

Because these drugs work in different ways, you can combine them for more significant pain relief, but only on the advice of a doctor.

Other Remedies for Knee Joint Pain

The first thing you should do is rest your inflamed joints if you have pain flare-ups from OA. Here are some other lifestyle changes and treatment options to relieve the pain of knee arthritis.

Heat/Cold Therapy

Applying heat or cold to your knee helps reduce stiffness, improves blood circulation, and reduces pain. You can use heat therapy options like heat lamps, hot water bottles, or heatable pads.

An ice pack can also help ease pain in the knee, but don’t apply the heat or cold pad directly on the skin.

Knee Braces

There is more evidence to support the use of knee braces for knee arthritis to support your weakened knee joint and to help stabilize the kneecap when moving around.

Braces and splints support your knees while at rest and during activities. Some braces stabilize your kneecap by helping it move properly without limiting your range of motion, whereas other types stop your knee joint from moving in ways that cause pain.

Remember to follow your doctor's advice when selecting a brace to avoid doing more harm than good.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation

A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation machine sends pulses to the nerve endings on the skin to modify pain messages sent to your brain. Although studies show that it doesn’t work for everyone, it can be used for pain relief.

Types of Knee Osteoarthritis Surgery

If you suffer from severe pain or mobility problems due to osteoarthritis of the knee and are not responding well to medications, diet, or lifestyle measures, then knee osteoarthritis surgery may be recommended as a last resort option.

Here are some of the surgical solutions for knee arthritis.


Arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure to remove damaged scar tissue and loose debris and fix torn cartilage.


This knee osteoarthritis surgery improves mobility by realigning the knee joint.

Cartilage Grafting

Grafting helps replace lost cartilage with soft tissue harvested from your body.

Total Knee Replacement

This knee osteoarthritis surgery can provide extended pain relief. The damaged bones and tissues are replaced with an artificial knee joint. Knee replacement surgery lasts an average of 15 years.

Trust the Knee Pain Experts at IBJI

There is no cure for arthritis, but it can be managed carefully to slow its progression. To learn more about knee osteoarthritis surgery and other treatment options, schedule an appointment with an IBJI knee care expert.

Illinois Bone & Joint Institute is one of Illinois’ largest orthopedic group practices. We have more than 150 physicians at 100 locations throughout the greater Chicago area, with expertise in knee care and other orthopedic specialties and complete diagnostic and rehab services.

Last updated in May 2022.

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