Written By: Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed by: KPE Medical Review Board
Osteoarthritis knee pain is a common problem that usually comes on gradually over a number of years.
It is caused by thinning and "wear and tear" of the knee cartilage and bones and affects more than 1 in 10 people. Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition meaning it tends to gradually worsen over time.
The symptoms of knee arthritis vary from person to person and the disease progresses at different rates in different people. Some people may experience a slow progression over many years, while others may have a more rapid deterioration. Various factors, including age, genetics, joint stress, previous injuries, and obesity, can influence the rate of progression.
Knee osteoarthritis can be classified into four different stages:
Often mild arthritis will stay at that level, however, sometimes it progresses.
Here we will look at how the different stages of knee osteoarthritis are classified, how they differ from each other and the common symptoms at each stage. To find out more about arthritis, including symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options, visit the knee arthritis guide.
When thinking about the stages of osteoarthritis knee pain there are two important factors to consider:
Surprisingly, there is often very little correlation between the two. Some people demonstrate advanced knee arthritis on x-ray but have minimal symptoms, whereas other people suffering from a great deal of osteoarthritis knee pain may only show mild changes on x-ray.
In general, it is much more important to concentrate on your symptoms, rather than what your x-ray shows.
Knee arthritis progresses through four different stages:
In the very early stages, knee arthritis is often classed as being "doubtful", and people often don't notice any symptoms at all at this stage.
The technical term for this stage is Early Degenerative Changes. In the early stages of osteoarthritis of the knee, again, there may be no significant symptoms at all.
There are a number of treatment options that can help reduce symptoms and stop progression of the knee arthritis at this stage.
The technical term for this stage is Moderately Advanced Arthritis.
Again, there are a whole range of treatment options including specially designed knee braces, injections and exercises that can help at this stage - visit the arthritis treatment section to find out more.
The technical term for this stage is Advanced Arthritis.
With advanced knee osteoarthritis, the best course of action for osteoarthritis knee pain is usually a knee replacement.
The best treatment for osteoarthritis knee pain will depend on which stage your arthritis is at and the symptoms you are feeling but will typically include:
You can find out all about the best ways to treat osteoarthritis knee pain in the Knee Arthritis Treatment section.
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Page Last Updated: 24/05/23
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