Knee Arthritis

Knee Arthritis

Article by John Miller

What is Knee Arthritis?

Knee Arthritis

The most common cause of Knee Arthritis in Knee Osteoarthritis (OA).

Knee osteoarthritis is a degenerative knee condition where the articular cartilage of your knee joint gradually wears away, exposing the underlying bone.

As your knee arthritis progresses, bony spurs also develop in and around your knee joint in response to the change in load distribution and biomechanics.

Within your knee, two joints can be affected by knee arthritis: the tibiofemoral joint – the joint between your thigh bone (femur) and your lower leg (tibia) and the patellofemoral joint (the joint between the kneecap and the femur itself).

What Causes Knee Arthritis?

There are several factors that have been found to predispose people to develop osteoarthritis in the knee joints:


As you age, it is normal for joint surfaces to “wear down”, especially the major weight-bearing joints of the lower limb. The ability of joint cartilage to repair itself also declines as you grow older.


Your weight will directly affect the amount of loading the joints in your lower limb have to support during weight-bearing activities.

Previous Knee Joint Injury

A previous injury to your knee can change the biomechanics of your knee joint. This leads to an abnormal distribution of load through the knee in everyday tasks.


The gene that produces your articular knee cartilage is sometimes defective and can lead to decreased lay down of cartilage, normal lay down of defective cartilage on the joint surfaces.

Jobs or Sports that repeatedly load your knee joint

Joint compression is essential for stimulating joint nutrition. Repetition of activities that excessively load the knee joint, such as squatting, lifting heavy objects and running, has been linked to an earlier onset of knee arthritis.

What are the Symptoms of Knee Arthritis?

  • Knee Pain often with a gradual onset and progression, often worse first thing in the morning or after periods of inactivity
  • Knee Pain often aggravated with weight-bearing activities such as walking, going up or downstairs, kneeling and squatting.
  • Knee stiffness
  • Knee swelling
  • Warmth around the knee
  • Clicking or grating
  • Decreased strength of the lower limb muscles

How is Knee Arthritis Diagnosed?

Your physiotherapist or doctor will suspect signs of knee arthritis from how you explain your knee symptoms. They will also conduct a series of knee tests that help to identify signs of knee arthritis.

An X-ray may also be used to confirm the diagnosis, as well as establish the location and degree of your knee arthritis.

For a specific diagnosis, please consult your physiotherapist or doctor.

What is the Treatment for Knee Arthritis?


Knee arthritis is a degenerative condition. Physiotherapy treatment aims to improve the symptoms of the disease (i.e. knee pain, swelling, stiffness), and you should begin to notice a positive difference within one or a few physiotherapy sessions.

The main goals of physiotherapy for your knee arthritis are:

  1. Reduce your knee pain and inflammation.
  2. Normalise your knee joint range of motion.
  3. Strengthen your knee: esp quadriceps (esp VMO) and hamstrings.
  4. Strengthen your lower limb: calves, hip and pelvis muscles.
  5. Improve your patellofemoral (knee cap) alignment and function.
  6. Normalise your muscle lengths.
  7. Improve your proprioception, agility and balance.
  8. Improve your technique and function, e.g. walking, squatting.

Knee Braces

Your physiotherapist may recommend using a knee brace to support your knee and help de-load certain structures. There are many different styles available, and it is important to find one that suits your individual needs!

PhysioWorks stocks an extensive range of knee arthritis braces.

Knee Arthritis Surgery

In some cases, patients with knee arthritis choose to undergo knee surgery to address the degeneration in the knee. The most common forms of surgery for this condition are knee arthroscopes, partial or total knee replacements.

If your knee arthritis symptoms are reaching an unmanageable level and treatment results have plateaued, it may be worth talking to your doctor about your surgical options.

Risks of surgery include infection, persistent instability and pain, stiffness, and difficulty returning to your previous level of activity. The good news is that better than 90% of patients have no complications post-surgery.

Post-Surgical Knee Rehabilitation

Post-operative knee rehabilitation is one of the most important, yet too often neglected, aspects of knee surgery.  The most successful and quickest outcomes result from the guidance and supervision of a qualified knee physiotherapist.

Your rehabilitation following knee surgery focuses on restoring full knee motion, strength, power and endurance. You will also require balance, proprioception and agility retraining that is individualised towards your specific functional needs.

For specific information, please consult your knee physiotherapist.

Common Causes - Knee Pain

Knee pain can have many origins from local injury, referred pain, biomechanical issues and systemic issues. While knee pain can appear simple to the untrained eye, a thorough assessment is often required to ascertain the origin of your symptoms. The good news is that once a definitive diagnosis is determined, most knee pain quickly resolves with the correct treatment and rehabilitation.

Knee Ligament Injuries

Knee Meniscus Injuries

Kneecap Pain

Knee Arthritis

Knee Tendon Injuries

Muscle Injuries

Knee Bursitis

Children’s Knee Conditions

Other Knee-Related Conditions

Knee Surgery

Knee FAQs

For specific information regarding your knee pain, please seek the assistance of a healthcare professional with a particular interest in knee condition, such as your knee physiotherapist.

Acute Injury Signs

Acute Injury Management.

Here are some warning signs that you have an injury. While some injuries are immediately evident, others can creep up slowly and progressively get worse. If you don't pay attention to both types of injuries, chronic problems can develop.

For detailed information on specific injuries, check out the injury by body part section.

Don't Ignore these Injury Warning Signs

Joint Pain

Joint pain, particularly in the knee, ankle, elbow, and wrist joints, should never be ignored. Because these joints are not covered by muscle, pain here is rarely of muscular origin. Joint pain that lasts more than 48 hours requires a professional diagnosis.


If you can elicit pain at a specific point in a bone, muscle, or joint, you may have a significant injury by pressing your finger into it. If the same spot on the other side of the body does not produce the same pain, you should probably see your health professional.  


Nearly all sports or musculoskeletal injuries cause swelling. Swelling is usually quite obvious and can be seen, but occasionally you may feel as though something is swollen or "full" even though it looks normal. Swelling usually goes along with pain, redness and heat.

Reduced Range of Motion

If the swelling isn't obvious, you can usually find it by checking for a reduced range of motion in a joint. If there is significant swelling within a joint, you will lose range of motion. Compare one side of the body with the other to identify major differences. If there are any, you probably have an injury that needs attention.


Compare sides for weakness by performing the same task. One way to tell is to lift the same weight with the right and left sides and look at the result. Or try to place body weight on one leg and then the other. A difference in your ability to support your weight is another suggestion of an injury that requires attention.

Immediate Injury Treatment: Step-by-Step Guidelines

  • Stop the activity immediately.
  • Wrap the injured part in a compression bandage.
  • Apply ice to the injured part (use a bag of crushed ice or a bag of frozen vegetables).
  • Elevate the injured part to reduce swelling.
  • Consult your health practitioner for a proper diagnosis of any serious injury.
  • Rehabilitate your injury under professional guidance.
  • Seek a second opinion if you are not improving.