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Patient Education

Osteoarthritis FAQ

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)/Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease of the knee is a type of arthritis and is characterized by the breakdown (wear and tear) of the cartilage between the bones of the knee.

Q: How is this disease treated?

A: Physical therapy treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee focuses on decreasing pain and improving joint mobility. Exercises are used for strengthening and increasing flexibility of the lower extremity musculature. Therapeutic modalities to control or reduce pain and inflammation in the joint are employed. Bracing for joint protection or to change your knee's alignment may also be considered.

Q: What causes osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee?

A: Age is a risk factor, but OA is not an inevitable part of aging. Several other factors can influence the development of OA in the knees, including joint injuries, obesity and genetics.

Q: How is OA of the knee diagnosed?

A: The diagnosis is based on a physical exam and history of symptoms. It may be confirmed with an X-ray.

Q: What is cartilage?

A: Cartilage is soft tissue between the 2 bones that make up a joint. In the knee there are 2 pieces, one on each side, which are called meniscus. They act as a cushion for the bones during activity, particularly in weight-bearing.

Q: What will my physical therapy consist of?

A: Therapy generally consists of a comprehensive exercise program. This may include home instruction, clinic sessions and/or aquatic exercise. Modalities are used for pain and inflammation in the joint. External bracing may be considered.

Q: How long will I be in therapy?

A: It is important to understand that your therapy will not reverse the physiologic breakdown of your knees' cartilage. By strengthening your knee and making it more efficient, your pain will generally diminish after several weeks. Patient education of a continuing home program is vital at the time of discharge. Clinic visits will generally last 3 to 6 weeks.

Last Updated: 05-13-2016
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