This month’s Nuffield Health advice column focusses on knee arthritis, including the symptoms to look out for and ways to treat the problem

If you are suffering from knee pain, help is at hand. Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Mr Jonathan Webb from Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield, discusses knee arthritis; its main symptoms, and when it’s time to see a consultant.

When people talk about knee arthritis they are usually referring to osteoarthritis or ‘wear and tear’ damage to the knee. Arthritis of the knee is also a term used for some less common painful inflammatory diseases of the joint, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The underlying process in knee osteoarthritis, which may eventually cause severe pain, is of damage and complete wearing out of the articular cartilage (joint surface) in any part of the knee joint. This results in bone grinding on bone in the knee, which is a painful and disabling condition. When people talk about knee arthritis they are usually referring to osteoarthritis or ‘wear and tear’ damage to the knee. Arthritis of the knee is also a term used for some less common painful inflammatory diseases of the joint, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The underlying process in knee osteoarthritis, which may eventually cause severe pain, is of damage and complete wearing out of the articular cartilage (joint surface) in any part of the knee joint. This results in bone grinding on bone in the knee, which is a painful and disabling condition. Knee osteoarthritis may occur without a previous injury, but sometimes it comes on gradually after an initial injury to the joint surface, and it is well known that having a torn meniscus cartilage increases the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis later in life.

Symptoms of knee osteoarthritis

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Knee surgery specialist Mr Jonathan Webb

The predominant symptom of knee osteoarthritis is pain. This can be a relatively mild background ache in the knee, which might interfere with sporting activities or a long walk, right up to constant severe disabling pain which makes walking very difficult or impossible. Pain may also be so severe that sleep can be disturbed and there is pain at rest. The normal activities of daily living may become difficult to perform. Sometimes, because of the roughening and fragmentation of the knee joint surface, there may also be catching, clicking or similar symptoms. Swelling of the knee joint is often seen, and in severe cases, the shape of the knee may change.

Treatment of knee osteoarthritis

If you have osteoarthritis of the knee you may well have had some form of treatment before coming to see a knee surgeon. These non-surgical treatments include simple pain killers, anti-inflammatory tablets, injections of cortisone or other substances, advice about weight loss, modification of activities and physiotherapy. If there is a diagnosis of early arthritis or you are relatively young, it may be possible to realign your leg (osteotomy) to offload the damaged part of your knee. This can dramatically reduce your symptoms as well as prolonging the lifespan of your knee. If there are symptoms of mechanical locking in the knee, or stiffness, then keyhole surgery of the knee (arthroscopy) may improve this. However, arthroscopy treatment cannot reverse the arthritis damage. Eventually the decision might be made between yourself and your surgeon that the pain has reached the point where the only option is a knee replacement (knee arthroplasty).


Mr Jonathan Webb at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield has a proven track record of long term success. To learn more or to book a consultation, call 0117 911 5339, or visit the website.

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