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Knee Pain in Old Age - Osteoarthritis

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Knee Pain in Old Age - Osteoarthritis

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Knee pain is the most common joint problem seen in older adults. Osteoarthritis is its leading cause. Learn more about this condition here.

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At September 15, 2016
Reviewed AtJanuary 24, 2023


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic joint disorder with progressive softening and disintegration of articular cartilage accompanied by the new growth of bone at the joint margins and capsular fibrosis. Osteoarthritis may be asymmetrically or symmetrically distributed and often localized to only one part of the joint. It is related to abnormal loading. OA is a dynamic phenomenon; it shows features of both destruction and repair.

What Are the Causes of Osteoarthritis?

Age is the most common factor associated with OA. As one gets older, the cartilage, meant to prevent the articular bones from rubbing against each other, gradually starts to wear off, causing a reduction in the lubricant oil in the joint. This does not mean that age is the only factor that affects OA. OA is the commonest of all the conditions affecting the joints. It is truly a universal disorder, affecting both sexes and all races. Everyone who lives a long enough life is expected to suffer from it sometime in life.

What Are the Risk Factors of Osteoarthritis?

Being a weight-bearing joint, congenital bony disorders, trauma, certain occupations that cause repetitive stress on the knee, knee bending activities, weak bones, obesity, and a family history of OA are a few risk factors that increase the chance of getting OA.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

Knee pain is usually the presenting symptom in the early stages. Other symptoms include stiffness, swelling, restriction of knee movements, and difficulty in daily activities, like getting up from a sitting position. The deformity may occur in the late stages.

Which Tests Are Required to Diagnose Osteoarthritis?

The tests required to diagnose osteoarthritis are discussed below.

  • Often X-rays show its characteristic features and will give the doctor a primary idea of the onset of the disease.

  • In some cases, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT(computed tomography) scans may be advised.

  • Bone DEXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) scans may be needed in severe cases to see the strength of bones.

What Is the Treatment of Osteoarthritis?

The treatment of osteoarthritis depends on its stage. The treatments differ in early and late stages, which are discussed below.

  1. Early Stage: In the early stages, one should maintain movement and muscle strength and protect joints from overload. Medicines can be used to relieve pain, and modification in daily activities will help.

  • Physiotherapy, massage, hot fomentation, infrared, short wave diathermy, knee supports, and caps will be helpful to alleviate pain.

  • General measures like weight reduction in obese patients, wearing shock-absorbing shoes, and avoiding activities like climbing stairs and sitting crossed-legged on the floor will help a lot.

  • The latest is intra-articular synovial fluid or hyaluronic injections given in the joint yearly or monthly, which will help delay the surgery and slow down the destruction of the joint to some extent.

  1. Late Stage: In the late stages, progressive joint destruction, increasing pain, instability, and deformity usually require treatment options like joint replacement. The destroyed joint is replaced by a new synthetic one. This knee replacement surgery has transformed the lives of millions of patients till now and continues to be a blessing for such patients.

How to Prevent Osteoarthritis?

Wear and tear of the joints increases as a person gets older. OA cannot entirely be prevented. However, one can minimize joint strain by taking proper care of oneself. Below are some tips for the same.

  • The joints are strained if the body is overweight. It is particularly dangerous to the hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Additionally, excess fat alters the cartilage. Hence, keeping a healthy body weight can reduce the risk of OA.

  • The chance of developing OA is increased by high blood sugar levels. Therefore, monitoring and maintaining blood sugar is important in lowering the risk of OA.

  • The best method to avoid joint issues is through exercise. It aids in preventing joint stiffness. It maintains muscle strength. It has a significant role in the management of arthritis. It is advised to workout for at least 30 minutes daily, if possible, or four to five days a week.

  • The chance of developing OA is increased by joint injury. Hence, one should be careful while doing activities that can result in a joint injury, like lifting heavy weights or walking on a slippery floor, etc.

  • One should not ignore joint pain, whether mild or severe. For instance, if a person gets joint pain that persists for one to two hours following an activity or workout, it indicates that the person may have overdone it. Hence, the joint must be allowed to rest, and to ease pain; an ice pack should be applied. This can prevent any strain on joints, minimizing the risk of OA.

  • Posture also plays an important role in preventing the risk of OA. Additionally, avoiding prolonged periods in one position might help individuals keep good posture at all times. When spending the entire day at a desk, people should ensure their chairs are properly adjusted and take frequent breaks to stand up and move around.

What Is the Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) result in stiffness and joint pain. Although both of them are types of arthritis, their causes and treatments vary. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. On the other hand, OA results when the protecting cartilage gradually deteriorates, forcing the bones to rub against one another. The symptoms of OA often only affect the joints, and it typically affects fewer joints. The symptoms of RA can be more extensive, and the disease's development is more unpredictable. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines are given for treating OA; however, corticosteroids, antirheumatic drugs, painkillers, and anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat RA.


The most prevalent type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, affects millions of individuals worldwide. The symptoms of osteoarthritis may usually be treated, but the joint deterioration cannot be reversed. Being physically active, keeping a healthy weight, and obtaining specific therapies may decrease the disease's course and help with pain relief and joint function.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Makes Osteoarthritis in Elderly People Better?

The following can ease osteoarthritis: 
- Exercise.
- Weight control.
- Rest.
- Joint care.
- Physiotherapy. 
- Daily walking.


What Is the Best Treatment for Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

The best treatment available treatment for osteoarthritis is medication. Anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are used. These medications help in reducing the pain as well as the swelling.


What Are the Four Stages of Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

The four stages of osteoarthritis are:
- Stage 1: Minor osteoarthritis.
- Stage 2: Mild osteoarthritis.
- Stage 3: Moderate osteoarthritis.
- Stage 4: Severe osteoarthritis.


What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

The symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Pain in the joints.
- Stiffness of the joints.
- Tenderness of the joints.
- Swelling of the joints. 
- Difficulty while folding knees.


What Should Be Avoided With Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

Things that should be avoided with osteoarthritis of the knee are
- Rigorous exercise.
- Lack of physical activity.
- Eating food items that cause inflammation, such as dairy and meat products.
- Folding knees for long periods.
- Climbing stairs regularly.


Does Osteoarthritis Require Knee Replacement?

Yes, osteoarthritis may require knee replacement. In osteoarthritis, there may be a breakdown of the bone cartilage. It may cause restricted mobility and pain in the joints. Hence, knee replacement surgeries can be performed. This may be accompanied by several sessions of physiotherapy.


Which Treatment Is Most Effective for Osteoarthritis?

The most effective treatment for osteoarthritis may include a combination of the following:
- Medications.
- Exercises.
- Diet control.
- Weight loss. 
- Physiotherapy. 
- Maintaining normal levels of nutrients.


How to Naturally Lubricate the Joints?

One can naturally lubricate the joints by consuming good amounts of healthy fat. This includes food items such as salmon, walnuts, olive oil, and food rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, antioxidant food items and also green leafy vegetables can naturally lubricate the joints.


What Are the Food Items That Should Be Avoided in Osteoarthritis?

The food items that should be avoided include
- Sugar substances.
- Dairy products.
- Refined flour such as maida.
- Red meat.
- Fried food items.
- Excessive rice.


Is Knee Pain in Osteoarthritis Persistent?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder of the knee. Depending on the condition's progression, the disease may or may not be persistent. However, joint pain can make daily tasks difficult. It may even cause disturbances in sleep.
Dr. Patil Mahaveer Jingonda
Dr. Patil Mahaveer Jingonda

Orthopedician and Traumatology


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