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Diagnosed With Knee Osteoarthritis: What are the next steps?

4th May 2022

In the UK, one in ten adults have knee osteoarthritis, with double the risk for those over 45 [1]. Being diagnosed with knee OA can be a scary time and being unsure to what extent it will impact your everyday life. Whilst it is a painful and life-altering condition, it can be managed with the right plan of action.

This article will outline the steps for those recently diagnosed with knee OA.

Knee OA Diagnosis

Lifestyle Changes

The necessary interventions will depend on your age, lifestyle, weight, and the severity of your knee OA. Regardless of the criteria, your doctor will probably assess risk factors common to all patients.

Being overweight is a key risk factor for knee OA since excessive weight puts extra pressure on your joints. To add to that, the fat in your body could cause the loss of cartilage over time. If you are in the overweight category, you could be advised to start a special diet rich in fibre, healthy fats, and antioxidants.

Regular exercise can strengthen the muscles around the knee, which stabilises and relaxes your joints. Together with your doctor or physiotherapist, you can create a low-impact exercise routine tailored to your knee. Such exercises include walking, swimming, cycling, tai chi, and yoga.

If you are smoker or consume alcohol regularly, you might need to reduce your use or quit altogether.

Last but certainly not least, you need to have a healthy sleeping pattern to regulate your muscle strength and stress levels.


The need for medication will depend on what stage you knee OA is at (mild, moderate or severe). In the very early stages, pain medication may not be necessary for some. How you deal with pain can also affect this, e.g., someone with mild OA may be in more pain than someone else with severe OA.

For mild to moderate pain, over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be recommended. If the pain is accompanied by swelling, your doctor might also prescribe Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

In advanced stages with severe symptoms, your doctor could prescribe opioid-based drugs, such as codeine and oxycodone, as well as corticosteroid injections. Keep in mind that opioids are highly addictive and should only be used under the supervision of your doctor.

Knee OA

Therapy Options

Alternative therapy methods aim to diminish symptoms so that you can continue to function in your daily life.

Physical therapy, supervised by a qualified physiotherapist, can be a helpful method to increase flexibility in leg muscles to relieve joint pain. On the other hand, occupational therapy involves teaching you ways to move your muscles without putting too much stress on your knees. In addition, acupuncture has been shown to be effective in relieving pain and stiffness in the joint [2].

It would be remiss to underestimate the mental implications of your knee OA diagnosis. You can combine physical therapy with psychotherapy to manage increased stress and anxiety associated with the symptoms or the future.

Surgery Options

If the strategies in the previous sections don’t work, surgery becomes a possibility. However, the suitable surgery option depends on your age and disease progression.

Osteotomy is recommended for patients with only one side of the knee joint damaged. If you are an average-weight person below 45 living an active life (e.g., professionally involved in sports, working at a physically demanding job), an osteotomy can help manage your symptoms and postpone the onset of later knee OA stages. This surgery aims to reshape the bone and relieve significant pressure on the weaker side of the joint.

On the other hand, if knee pain has taken over your life to the extent that you cannot even rest without pain, your doctor can consider total knee replacement. During surgery, the damaged part of the knee joint gets removed and replaced with an artificial joint, usually made of metal or plastic. Total knee replacement shows over a 90% success rate, and you can resume most physical activities without much difficulty [3].

Total Knee Replacement

The Verdict

Knee osteoarthritis can be a scary journey, but how difficult it is to navigate varies from one individual to another. As with many chronic conditions, early diagnosis is key to managing progression and symptoms. Exercise and a healthy diet can be practiced regardless of the disease stage, the efficiency of treatment methods like medication and physiotherapy differ among individuals. With this in mind, we highly recommend that you seek advice from a healthcare professional to determine the best plan of action for your specific needs.

You can also check out detailed blog posts on our website about diet, pain management, surgery types, knee braces, exercises, and footwear.


[1] Swain, S et al. “Trends in incidence and prevalence of osteoarthritis in the United Kingdom: findings from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD).” Osteoarthritis and cartilage vol. 28,6 (2020): 792-801. doi:10.1016/j.joca.2020.03.004

[2] Selfe, Terry Kit, and Ann Gill Taylor. “Acupuncture and osteoarthritis of the knee: a review of randomized, controlled trials.” Family & community health vol. 31,3 (2008): 247-54. doi:10.1097/01.FCH.0000324482.78577.0f

[3] Castagnini, Francesco, et al. "Total knee replacement in young patients: survival and causes of revision in a registry population." The Journal of Arthroplasty 32.11 (2017): 3368-3372.

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