Knee Osteoarthritis Management and Treatment

Knee Osteoarthritis Management and Treatment- What is supported by research

The Common Scenario:

You are experiencing knee pain that has been gradually getting worse and you want to be assessed by your family physician. Your physician diagnoses you with knee osteoarthritis- a degenerative chronic condition that affects the cartilage in the knee joint. It is often associated with pain, stiffness, swelling and functional disability.

The Common Recommendations:

The typical treatment recommendations for osteoarthritis are something to address the pain and swelling and something to manage the mobility of the knee joint. For knee pain and swelling, taking anti-inflammatories regularly or a corticosteroid injection are commonly recommended. To manage the mobility of the knee, physiotherapy or general low impact activity are recommended.

So you’ve been given options, what now? What is the best treatment for me? Let’s start by reviewing which treatments are supported by research?

Pain management:

In a recent study analyzing which painkillers are effective for managing osteoarthritis pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the common course of action. While these medications are effective at managing osteo-arthritis pain, they can come with side effects or depending on our health history they may not be suitable. It is best to consult with your physician regarding dosage and frequency of use.

Another common method of pain management is a corticosteroid injection in the knee joint to help manage the pain and inflammation. Within the past 5-years, more and more research suggests that while this method can be an effective short-term reliever of pain, it can actually have long-term consequences. More specifically, it is potentially doing more harm in degrading the cartilage and increasing the risk of surgical intervention (total knee replacement).

You are now probably thinking, “I don’t want side effects from drugs”, “ I want to hold off on surgery for as long as possible”, so what now?

What now is EXERCISE!

Your physician may suggest working with a physiotherapist or engaging in some form of physical activity as a helpful way to manage your knee osteoarthritis. Lucky for you, both of these are strongly supported in research as effective interventions in pain management and improving functional mobility. A registered physiotherapist can perform a thorough assessment and create an individualized treatment plan incorporating education, exercise and manual therapy. Another option would be an exercise group catered to osteoarthritis and delivered by a physiotherapist. The most well-known program is called the Good Life with OsteoArthritis (GLA:D). The GLA:D program is 8-weeks long and involves both osteoarthritis education and guided exercises. A recent study found that participants who completed the GLA:D program reported a reduction in pain intensity by 33% as well as improvements in walking speed and functional mobility.

As you can see there are effective holistic ways to manage your knee osteoarthritis. At ALPHA Health Services, we offer both one-on-one physiotherapy treatment as well as the GLA:D program. We are just a click or phone call away, get started today!

Olivia Martins, Director of Physiotherapy

Click here to book with Olivia at ALPHA Midtown or ALPHA East!


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