Understanding Degenerative Joint Disease in the Knee

degenerative joint disease in he knee

Understanding Degenerative Joint Disease in the Knee

Degenerative joint disease in the knee is a painful condition that affects millions of people each year. This article will help you understand how degenerative joint disease develops and what can be done to treat it.

What Causes Degenerative Joint Disease in the Knee?

Degenerative joint disease (also known as arthritis) is a common condition that can cause severe knee pain and can interfere with your ability to enjoy normal activities. It most commonly develops among older adults and those who are particularly active, which can put a great deal of repetitive strain on the knee joint.

A healthy knee joint is composed of the bottom of the thigh bone (femur), the top of the shin bone (tibia), and the kneecap (patella). The space between these three bone components is cushioned with a protective cartilage that allows the joint to move smoothly. The meniscus, two thick pieces of cartilage, line the area where the thigh bone and shin bone meet and protects the bone.

When arthritis develops, this cartilage in the knee joint begins to wear away, leaving the bones to rub together. This friction can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort for those who suffer from arthritis, which often begins to affect their daily activities.

There are three common causes of knee arthritis:

  •       Osteoarthritis: The protective cartilage wears away over time, meaning the bones begin to rub together and can produce painful bone spurs called osteophytes.
  •       Rheumatoid arthritis: This is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system begins to attack its own joints. It will lead to painful inflammation in the knee and the destruction of healthy tissue.
  •       Posttraumatic arthritis: A serious knee injury can damage the joint, eventually leading to arthritis.

The following can increase your risk of developing knee arthritis:

  •       Being overweight
  •       Engaging in frequent high-impact activity
  •       Having a family history of arthritis
knee degenerative joint disease

What are the Symptoms of Degenerative Joint Disease in the Knee?

The most common symptom of knee arthritis is persistent knee pain. Typically, the knee pain gets worse over time and is worse right after getting up in the morning or after sitting for a while. Other common symptoms include

  •       Stiffness in the knee
  •       Swelling in the knee
  •       Tenderness in the knee
  •       Difficulty getting around
  •       Grinding or clicking sound in the knee
  •       Feeling of instability or catching in the knee

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to seek an orthopaedic evaluation for degenerative joint disease.

How is Degenerative Joint Disease in the Knee Diagnosed?

Knee arthritis is often diagnosed through several different methods. First, an orthopaedic specialist will likely physically examine the affected knee to look for signs of inflammation, instability, or tenderness. Then, they will typically order X-rays to further examine the bone of the affected knee. A knee with arthritis will usually show a smaller space between the two bones that compose the joint because of the loss of cartilage.

Occasionally, an MRI or CT scan may be necessary to better examine the surrounding soft tissue and structure of the bone.

How Is Degenerative Joint Disease in the Knee Treated?

Most people with arthritis will start finding relief with a range of nonsurgical treatments based on a doctor’s recommendation. These can include

  •       Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers
  •       Avoiding high-impact activities that put pressure on your knee
  •       Physical therapy exercises can help you improve your range of motion and flexibility
  •       Wearing a brace that better secures the stability of your knee
  •       Cortisone injections that can help relieve joint inflammation
  •       Losing excess weight can help reduce the pressure on your knee joints

In more severe, persistent cases, surgery may be necessary to provide relief. There are several different types of surgery that can help treat symptoms of severe knee arthritis. Here are some of the most common procedures:

Knee Arthroscopy

In this procedure, an orthopaedic surgeon makes a small incision and uses a variety of narrow instruments to more closely examine and repair any damage to the joint and surrounding bone structure or soft tissue.

Knee Osteotomy

An orthopaedic surgeon will remove a portion of either the shin bone or the thigh bone to offset the distribution of weight on the knee joint, which can help relieve pressure on the side of the joint that has begun to suffer damage.

Knee Cartilage Grafting

Cartilage is taken from a different area in the knee or body and used to fill the space where the cartilage in the knee has worn away or suffered damage.

Knee Arthroplasty (Replacement)

The damaged knee joint surfaces are removed and replaced with metal or plastic components to restore smooth movement of the joint. This procedure is one of the most common orthopaedic surgeries.

Your doctor will discuss the best course of treatment for you based on your individual case.

Treating Degenerative Joint Disease in the Knee With Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants

At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, we understand how debilitating knee arthritis can be. We’re armed with innovative treatments and compassionate providers who are ready to help you start getting some relief from constant knee pain and getting back to your regular daily life.

If you’re suffering from painful knee arthritis, book an appointment with us today!


Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.