Understanding the 4 Stages of Knee Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) affects millions of people every year and is by far the most common form of knee arthritis.

When you have arthritis of the knee, the cartilage of the knee begins to wear away. As this top layer of cartilage breaks down, the bone and the cartilage start rubbing together, leading to pain, loss of mobility, swelling and the formation of bone spurs.

OA can also occur when the knee joint begins to weaken. Genetics, knee injuries, obesity and inactivity can all lead to secondary OA due to the weakening of the joint.

The minute that you feel you might have OA of the knee, it’s important to understand the different stages of knee arthritis so that you know how to treat the symptoms.

4 Stages of Knee Arthritis & How to Treat Them

Stage 1

During this stage, you will experience minor bone spur growth but it won’t generally lead to any pain or discomfort. Since the OA will be in its early stages, staying active and not overusing the knee can help. Incorporating exercises that will strengthen the knee into your routine is recommended. What you eat will also help strengthen your bones and joints so pay attention to your diet too. If you are overweight, it’s important to start gradually losing any excess weight to put less pressure on your knees.

Stage 2

This is still a mild stage of OA but bone spur growth will continue and your cartilage will still be a healthy size. Your bones will not be scraping against each other yet but your knees will be slightly tender. There is still enough synovial fluid present at this stage. It’s recommended that you speak to a specialist from one of the Western Orthopaedic clinics during this stage. Over the counter medications will help but you may want some additional advice from a doctor. Along with the right exercises, braces and wraps will also help during this stage.

Stage 3

This is when the cartilage between your bones begins to get thinner and starts damaging the knee. This is a moderate stage of OA and it will lead to a lot more pain and discomfort in everyday situations. Running, kneeling and bending will now also become painful and you won’t be able to sit for extended periods of time without the knee becoming stiff. Work with your doctor to keep exercising the knee to keep it mobile and strong. You will also be given additional treatment options and medications to help you get through this stage.

Stage 4

This is the most severe stage of knee OA because there is very little space between the bones. The cartilage will barely be there and you will be in constant pain when walking or moving the joint. During this stage, bone realignment surgery might be a good option as this will shift your body weight away from the damaged areas of the knee. Knee replacement is another option if extreme cases.