What is knee arthritis?

The most common form of symptomatic arthritis of the knee is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects over 60 million Americans. Osteoarthritis can affect most any joint in the body. It is a condition in which the cartilage covering of the bone ages and deteriorates. It sometimes results in stiffness and pain of the involved joint.

Knee arthritis is deterioration of the cartilage on the surface of the joints of the knee. These joints include:

  • The tibiofemoral joint (the end of the thigh bone contacting the top of the leg bone)
  • The patellofemoral joint (The joint between the knee cap and the thigh bone)


The causes of osteoarthritis vary. It can result from injury, but most patients with osteoarthritis have it as a result of their genetic makeup. It can also be a side effect of certain drugs and environmental influences.


Rheumatoid arthritis is another cause of knee arthritis. Most people that have arthritis of their knee due to rheumatoid disease already carry a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

Lupus can cause knee arthritis. Gout can lead to knee arthritis. There is a form of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis that can affect the knee.

Infection of the knee joint can lead to arthritis.



Arthritis of the knee is usually manifested as pain or stiffness of the joint. The pain is generally noted around the knee. It is a deep pain. Patients may have a hard time “putting a finger on it”. Most patients find that their pain increases when they are more active.  A lot of patients have difficulty sleeping when their knee arthritis is painful.


A doctor can usually diagnose knee arthritis with a combination of careful history, physical examination, and sometimes imaging studies. In most cases, a plain x-ray is sufficient imaging to establish the diagnosis.


Osteoarthritis is often treated with:

  • Activity Modification
  • Home exercises
  • Physical Therapy
  • Medication
  • Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy
  • Surgery

It’s not clear exactly why, but physical therapy works very well for osteoarthritis of the knee. Physical therapy is generally oriented towards goals of increasing strength of the muscles that operate the knee and stretching the ligaments by utilizing a home exercise regimen. Most patients will notice a benefit from therapy after a month or two of trial.

Medication for knee arthritis can include pills taken by mouth, medication rubbed into the skin around the knee, and injectable medications.
Hyalurons, which are sometimes called “gel” shots or “rooster comb” shots are appropriate treatment for some. Injection of cortisone into the knee joint is also sometimes appropriate.

Platelet rich plasma has shown to be a very effective treatment option when properly injected into a very precise location. This treatment option can improve pain and function by using the bodies natural substances to calm inflammation within the knee joint and surrounding tissues.