Information provided by the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

What can I do to manage knee osteoarthritis (OA knee)?

There is no scientifically proven method of stopping the progression of knee osteoarthritis (OA knee) as it is a degenerative condition that tends to progress as one ages. However, there are methods of minimising further damage or degeneration in the knee.

Cartilage can be likened to the rubber lining of a tire that wears out over many years of use. However, cartilage also requires a certain amount of joint loading to maintain optimal health.

The best way to manage knee osteoarthritis (OA knee) is to achieve a balance between activity and inactivity. Because #healthiswealth #healthforgood

1. Balance between activity and inactivity

  • Although having OA knee means you should avoid vigorous activities, you should also not excessively restrict your own mobility.
  • Avoid prolonged periods of sitting; be mindful to frequently get up and move around. Low-impact weight-bearing activities such as walking on flat ground, aquatic exercises such as walking in the swimming pool and slow stationary bicycling have been shown to have beneficial effects for patients with osteoarthritis.
  • Keep your muscles strong; consider taking up brisk walking, cycling and swimming exercises.
  • Do warm-up/cool-down before and after activities 

2. Reduction of excessive loading forces across the knee, commonly termed ‘activity modification’

  • Avoid prolonged periods of walking or standing.
  • Take regular sitting breaks between walking.
  • Avoid stairs when a lift or an escalator is available.
  • Avoid vigorous activities such as long-distance running and sports with repeated jumping.
  • Wear footwear with proper shock absorption and stability.
  • Avoid excessive running and jumping.
  • Avoid climbing too many flights of stairs.
  • Avoid squatting or sitting on low stools.

3. Physiotherapy

Therapy aims to strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve joint flexibility. There is good scientific evidence that physiotherapy relieves pain and improves function in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA knee). Physiotherapy sessions are usually conducted once a week and last about 30mins for each session.

The therapist will teach the patient exercises that will improve the strength and flexibility of the knee. It is important that the patient continues with the exercises even after completing physiotherapy.

4. Weight management

If you already have OA knee, losing weight may help to reduce pain and the load on your knees. A well-balanced diet and lifestyle enhancements can help you maintain your ideal weight.

5. Minor injury prevention

  • If you strain your knee, apply an ice bag to reduce the swelling.
  • If you suffer a joint injury or persistent knee pain, seek medical treatment and take precautions to prevent further damage.
  • Use aids such as canes or walkers to reduce some of the strain on the knee

6. Medications

Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your osteoarthritis condition. Two types of medication are commonly used for OA knee: symptomatic medications and/or supplements.

  1. Symptomatic medications include pain-relieving tablets, topical gels, and plasters to be applied to the knee.
  2. Supplements include glucosamine or collagen-based tablets.

Glucosamine is a commonly prescribed supplement that helps to maintain cartilage health. Efficacy may differ from patient to patient; it tends to work better in patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis.

Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of treatment via medications for osteoarthritis.

Ref: L20

Other osteoarthritis articles you may be interested in:

Knee Osteoarthritis Treatment: Medication

Osteoarthritis Prevention: What You Can Do