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Knee pain

Knee pain: Common causes and treatments


Rosemary Marchese – Physiotherapist

Your knees are used in almost every activity you do during a work or school day. Arthritis is one of the major causes of knee pain. It is not just a condition of the elderly and can impact a lot of very young people.

There are two main types of arthritis, however there are so many more. The most common type of arthritis that I see in the clinic is osteoarthritis. This can present in one or both knees. It can cause pain with any weight bearing activity, especially stair walking or squatting. When the situation worsens the person often reports pain even at rest.

What are the two main types of arthritis? 

  1. Osteoarthritis (OA) – this is the ‘wear and tear’ condition you may often hear about. This occurs because there is a breakdown in the joint cartilage, which increases the friction in the joint resulting in pain, inflammation and stiffness.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – this is an autoimmune disease which means that the entire body is affected. Sometimes the ‘flare ups’ are accompanied by pain, fever and general malaise. The joints are mistakenly attacked by the body’s immune system and this leads to chronic inflammation and pain.

Do you need to see a physiotherapist?

Maybe. Maybe not. Keeping fit and healthy is a great way to minimise any loss of function due to arthritis. However during flare ups in RA it is advisable to rest and let the body recover. Talk to your doctor about your first types of management strategies. I like to liaise with doctors to make sure there is a holistic plan that involves all the health professionals working together to get the best outcome for the patient.

Weight control and exercise education is the one of the first things you should try to familiarise yourself with when you have arthritis. Your physiotherapist can help with this. Pain can lead to muscle inhibition so it’s important you find ways to minimise this. I never promise any patient that I can ‘get rid of arthritis’. However there are plenty of strategies that can be implemented to reduce pain and improve function.

Do you need surgery?

When physiotherapy, weight control and exercise have all been attempted then surgery may be considered. Really, the decision to have surgery is the patient’s decision. You need to decide for yourself at which point your function has been impeded so much that you cannot cope like that anymore.