Skip to content

    Osteoarthritis Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Knee Osteoarthritis: When to Consider Surgery

    Knee osteoarthritis (OA) can affect your every move: walking, climbing stairs, even sitting or lying down. Surgery can help bring relief, but doctors almost always advise trying other treatment options first. These include:

    Medications you take by mouth. Over-the-counter options include acetaminophen (Tylenol) as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDs fight inflammation. Stronger NSAIDs are available by prescription.

    Recommended Related to Osteoarthritis

    How to Take Care of Your Joints

    Just as the tread on your tires wears away over time, the cartilage that cushions your joints can break down, too. It's a condition called osteoarthritis. And without enough padding, your bones will hurt when they rub against each other. Frayed cartilage can't heal or grow back. "There's no way to reverse the arthritis once it has started," says Michaela M. Schneiderbauer, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. But you can ease the pain and protect the cartilage...

    Read the How to Take Care of Your Joints article > >

    Creams or ointments you rub onto the skin. Different forms are sold over the counter. You can get stronger versions with a prescription.

    Medications injected into the joint. Corticosteroid injections, also called cortisone shots, fight inflammation and can offer fast pain relief that may last up to several months. Injections of hyaluronic acid boost the natural joint fluid that keeps knees moving smoothly. They may take up to a couple of months to have their full effect but can last up to 6 months or more.

    Exercise and physical therapy. Exercise strengthens the muscles that support your knee. Physical therapy also helps. A physical therapist can design the program for you and see if you need supportive braces, splints, or canes. If you need to lose weight, diet and exercise can help you shed some pounds and take some of the pressure off your knees.

    Weight loss. Every pound you gain puts an extra 3 pounds of pressure on your knees. If you eventually need knee replacement surgery, your chances of success are much greater if you first lose extra weight.

    Nutritional supplements. Some people take glucosamine and chondroitin for OA. Studies on how well they work have had mixed results. Another supplement, called SAMe, has been shown to work as well as nonprescription pain relievers and may have fewer side effects. It takes longer to work, though. Before you start taking any supplements, even if they're natural, tell your doctor so he can check for any side effects.

    These treatment options may provide enough relief to keep you moving comfortably. If they don't, they become less effective over time, or you can't tolerate them, your doctor may suggest considering surgery. The two types of surgery most often recommended for knee OA are arthroscopic surgery and knee replacement surgery.

    Today on WebMD

    elderly hands
    Even with arthritis pain.
    woman exercising
    Here are 7 easy tips.
     
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
    chronic pain
    Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
     
    Keep Joints Healthy
    SLIDESHOW
    Chronic Pain Healthcheck
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    close up of man with gut
    Article
    man knee support
    Article
     
    woman with cold compress
    QUIZ
    Man doing tai chi
    Article
     
    hand gripping green rubber ball
    Slideshow
    person walking with assistance
    Slideshow