The bad news first: osteoarthritis of the knee cannot be cured. But the situation isn't hopeless. With the right treatment, patients can reduce their symptoms. We explain why medication is not good for long-term treatment, what osteoarthritis patients should eat and how being active reduces pain.
It often starts gradually and without pain and first becomes noticeable after breaks from activity: osteoarthritis of the knee. Once the diagnosis has been made, many patients feel relieved: finally, they at least know the cause of their knee pain. Now depending on the stage of osteoarthritis, it is necessary to consider and implement different treatment options. All of these options aim not only at reducing pain and restrictions of movement, but also at slowing down further joint wear.
Pills are the exception and exercise is the rule to combat osteoarthritis pain
To delay or prevent surgery or even an artificial joint replacement (knee replacement, TKR for short) , non-surgical treatment methods are called for. These treatments can be further divided into drug therapy and non-drug therapy.
The golden rule for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: it is most effective to combine various methods.
Medication in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee
Medication should only be taken for a limited period of time and after consultation with a physician. It can help to reduce pain and facilitate movement, so it is frequently recommended at the start of a gentle exercise program or physiotherapy. Medications in the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are typically used to treat osteoarthritis. They relieve pain and reduce inflammation, yet may affect the stomach and blood vessels during permanent use. Therefore, physicians tend to recommend patients with osteoarthritis of the knee to change their diet, get exercise and relieve the knee using a support or orthosis as needed, as these measurements cam also have a positive impact on the pain perception.
Which types of food help manage osteoarthritis of the knee?
The less body weight carried by the knees, the better. That is why weight loss is recommended for cases involving osteoarthritis of the knee and obesity. A change in diet can help here. It is of importance for all osteoarthritis patients: if you only eat red meat or animal fats in butter, cream or full-fat cheese occasionally, this can also have a positive impact on osteoarthritis of the knee. The diets of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee should rather focus on fruit and vegetables, leafy greens and plant-based oils, cereals, pulses and fish (especially salmon, mackerel and herring). Sugar, alcohol and nicotine should be avoided, as they contain free radicals. An overwhelming number of these substances can benefit the developement of diseases such as osteoarthritis of the knee.
An osteoarthritis patients menu should consist of fruit and vegetables, salads and vegetable oils, cereals and legumes as well as fish (preferably salmon, mackerel and herring).
Prof. Dr. Stefan Sell
Medical Director, Black Forest Joint Center in Neuenbürg, Germany
Which activities help with osteoarthritis of the knee
Once you start experiencing pain in your knee, it becomes difficult to be active. However, physicians warn against the risk of avoiding movement when suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee and adopting an incorrect posture to help relieve the pain.
During physiotherapy, patients with osteoarthritis of the knee learn suitable exercises that gradually restore the mobility of the knee joints and maintain joint function. At the same time,these exercises strengthen the muscles that relieve the joints and reduce pain. Although this type of physiotherapy should only be performed with professional guidance, patients can also stay active on their own account easily: cycling, walking, swimming, aqua jogging and gymnastics are good options. Demanding ball games and sports involving jumping are less ideal as the knee has to cushion against shocks and is subjected to additional strain. And when it comes to the right exercise, the rule of thumb is: the earlier the better. After all, they can also help to prevent osteoarthritis in the knee.
How do supports and orthoses help?
Although being active generally helps to reduce pain and slow down the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee, it's always tough at the beginning, especially when stress is painful. Knee supports or orthoses by Bauerfeind can help patients to stay active in spite of their pain. Supports relieve the affected knee, distribute loads and stabilize the joint. They fit comfortably and are ideal companions during everyday life and exercise.
Which orthosis or support is the right choice for osteoarthritis of the knee? In our advice portal, you can find extensive information about products and a guideline to help you select the right aid.
Osteoarthritis of the knee: when does it require surgery?
In some cases, it is possible that non-surgical treatment will not be enough: the knee pain persists and the osteoarthritis in the knee continues to progress. This is when patients will need knee surgery, for example involving arthroscopy with cartilage replacement. If osteoarthritis of the knee is in a particularly advanced stage, only an artificial joint replacement will help to restore the patient's mobility.