Knee Osteoarthritis |Cause and Symptoms | MedStar Health

US News Best Hospitals - Orthopedics - 2023-24US News and World Report High Performing Hospitals Badge for knee replacement_2023-24_MGUH

Knee arthritis management

MedStar Health knee specialists offer sophisticated conservative and surgical options to treat patients with knee arthritis. We treat each patient using a combination of advanced pain management techniques, physical therapy, and surgical options. No matter how simple or complex your knee condition, our experienced orthopedic knee surgeons at MedStar Health will offer you a successful and durable solution.

What is knee osteoarthritis?

Knee arthritis refers to the inflammation of the cartilage that cushions your joint where the thigh bone meets the leg bone. This inflammation can cause pain, swelling, and knee damage. Because we spend so much time on our feet, our knee joints are especially vulnerable to arthritis. There are three common types of knee arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis of the knee: This is the most common type. It refers to arthritis that is the result of your body’s natural aging process, which can wear away the cartilage. Over time, this can cause inflammation and chronic pain.

  • Post-traumatic arthritis of the knee: This is a specific form of osteoarthritis, which develops after you have had one or more knee injuries such as fractures and ACL injuries.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis of the knee: This is a less common type. This type occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the knee joint, wearing away the cartilage lining. Generally, rheumatoid arthritis affects both sides of the body, causing pain in both knees.


play button

In people with osteoarthritis, there is a chronic degenerative loss of cartilage resulting in bone to bone exposure bone destruction inflammation and pain.

What causes knee osteoarthritis?

Commonly seen in older adults, osteoarthritis of the knee can also affect younger people, especially those who have suffered knee injuries. Post-traumatic arthritis, or arthritis due to a knee injury, is commonly seen in young adults who suffered multiple sports-related knee injuries throughout their lives.

What are the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis?

If you notice any of the following symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, it is important to schedule an evaluation with one of our osteoarthritis doctors at MedStar Health:

  • Stiffness and swelling in the knee area

  • Difficulty moving the knee

  • Knee feels weak and painful

  • Knee feels unstable as if it might give way

  • Difficulty walking

A radiology technician prepares a patient for an MRI scan of his knee.

How is knee arthritis diagnosed?

Our physicians at MedStar Health are experts at diagnosing knee arthritis. Our initial exam generally includes:

  • Medical history evaluation – Your physician will spend time speaking with you about any past health conditions, when your pain began, and any other related family and personal medical history.

  • Physical exam – During a physical exam, your orthopedist will evaluate your knees and may ask you to describe your pain.

  • Imaging tests – If needed, your physician may also recommend diagnostic testing, such as X-rays or MRI to determine the severity of the arthritic damage.

What are the best knee arthritis treatment options?

Knee arthritis treatment can be conservative or surgical.

Conservative options available at the MedStar Health include:

  • Physical therapy including anti-gravity treadmills

  • Exercise therapy

  • Pain and anti-inflammatory medications

If your knee arthritis becomes worse or does not respond to conservative treatment, your physician may recommend osteoarthritis knee surgery at MedStar Health. Many of our advanced surgeries are minimally invasive, which can reduce recovery time. Knee arthritis surgeries offered at MedStar Health include:

Relief from joint pain starts here

Don’t let knee pain stop you from living your best life. Take our free assessment below to learn about your treatment options.