Causes of knee pain
Usually, knee pain and loss of mobility is caused by the joint’s cartilage lining wearing away. When this happens, the bones rub directly against each other, causing pain and swelling. One of the most common causes is osteoarthritis (OA), which often happens following trauma or direct injury to the knee. Without cartilage, there’s no ‘shock absorber’ between the bones in the joint, so stress builds up in the bones and causes pain and discomfort.
How does arthritis affect the knee?
Knee pain is sometimes caused by deformity or injury, but one of the most common causes is osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease. In a joint that has been damaged by arthritis the cartilage becomes inflamed and wears down, causing bone to rub against bare bone, creating pain, stiffness, deformity and loss of mobility. And since it’s a degenerative disease, it just gets worse over time. Other common causes of joint pain include rheumatoid arthritis or post-traumatic arthritis1.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis in Australia. Over 2.1 million Australians experience OA, which was over half (59%) of all arthritic conditions in the years 2014–15. Although osteoarthritis can affect people of all ages, it mostly affects people over 45, with 1 in 5 Australians (21%) having some degree of osteoarthritis2.
There is currently no cure for OA, but there are many effective treatments to control symptoms3.
Symptoms of OA
If you have OA you may feel discomfort, pain or joint stiffness (which may vary at different times of the day or night) and show signs of swelling and tenderness in one or more joints. You may even hear a crunching sound in your joints as the bones rub directly against each other.
Causes of OA
In many cases, it’s hard to identify a clear cause of OA. But research suggests some things may put certain joints at more risk. For example:
- Knees – a previous knee injury, being overweight or jobs involving kneeling, climbing or squatting3.
- Hips – a previous hip injury, being overweight, or jobs involving heavy lifting, such as farming3.
- Hands – a family history of OA in the family3.
To diagnose you properly and offer the right treatment, your doctor will consider your symptoms and medical history, examine your joints, and arrange one or more diagnostic tests. For example, he or she may suggest blood tests, X-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI scan to get a clear view of your joint’s alignment and general condition3.
Based on the results of these tests, your doctor will then discuss the best treatment options with you. Depending on the severity of your OA and the pain you’re experiencing, treatments may include:
- Pain relief – using medicines such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)3
- Exercise and weight loss – an exercise program designed specifically for you, and a weight loss program if you’re overweight3.
- A surgical procedure or joint replacement surgery – if your OA symptoms and pain levels are no longer controlled with other therapies3.
Always discuss your treatment options with your doctor.
Go to knee treatment options