Skip Navigation


Knee Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. While it can damage any joint in your body, it commonly affects the knees and hips. It involves the breakdown and eventual loss of joint cartilage – a protein substance that cushions the bones at the joint.

If you have knee osteoarthritis, your top layer of cartilage has worn away, allowing your bones to rub together.

Request a knee osteoarthritis appointment online

What Causes Knee Osteoarthritis?

Although the root cause of OA is unknown, the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis is influenced by factors such as age, gender and inherited traits that affect the shape and stability of your joints. Other factors can include: 

  • A previous knee injury 
  • Repetitive strain on the knee 
  • Improper joint alignment 
  • Being overweight 
  • Exercise or sports-generated stress placed on the knee joints

Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis

If you have knee osteoarthritis, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain while standing or walking short distances, climbing up or down stairs, or getting in and out of chairs 
  • Knee pain with activity 
  • Start up pain or stiffness when moving from a sitting position 
  • Stiffness in your knee joint after getting out of bed 
  • Swelling in one or more areas of the knee 
  • A grating sensation or crunching feeling when you use your knee

How is Knee Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you may have knee osteoarthritis, he will perform a physical examination and order some tests to help him diagnose your problem. These may include: 

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will observe the natural movement of your knee, evaluate your knee and ankle joint alignment, and check your reflexes, muscle strength, range of motion and ligament stability in your knee. 
  • X-rays: Your physician may order x-rays to determine how much joint or bone damage has been done, how much cartilage has been lost and if there are bone spurs present. 
  • CT or MRI: One of these imaging tests may be necessary to determine exactly where the damage is and the extent. 
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can rule out other causes for your symptoms. 
  • Joint aspiration: This test involves drawing fluid from the joint through a needle and examining the fluid under a microscope.

Treatment Options for Knee Osteoarthritis

Whether your knee osteoarthritis is mild or severe, your doctor will most likely recommend certain lifestyle changes to reduce stress on your knee joints. Other non-surgical pain management strategies may include: 

  • Physical therapy 
  • Steroid injections 
  • Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or topical pain relieving creams

You may be a candidate for surgery if your symptoms do not respond to non-surgical solutions, or if your pain can no longer be controlled by medication. At Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, our expert surgeons perform the most common knee surgeries using the latest advancements: 

Patients with early to mid-stage knee osteoarthritis may be good candidates for MAKOplasty partial knee resurfacing. If you have advanced OA, your doctor may recommend total knee replacement.

Learn more about Knee Replacement surgery and MAKOplasty® Partial Knee Resurfacing

Quick Reference

Orthopaedic Services

New Patients 336-716-WAKE
Toll-Free 888-716-WAKE
Returning Patients
Returning Pediatric Patients

Contact the Department

Main 336-716-8200
Fax 336-716-8018

For assistance after hours, please call 336-716-2011 and ask for the Orthopaedic Surgeon on call.
Find a Doctor Ways to Give
Last Updated: 12-14-2015
Wake Forest Baptist Ranked among Nation’s ‘Best Hospitals’  25 Years in a Row by U.S. News & World ReportComprehensive Cancer Centers National Designation is Renewed2017-2018 Best DoctorsNursing Magnet StatusJoint Commission Report

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.

© Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157. All Rights Reserved.