FAQs about Knee Arthritis

Here are some frequently asked question about knee arthritis (also called osteoarthritis):

Injuries and conditions vary. The answers to these questions are not meant as medical advice. Talk to your doctor about your questions.

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Questions About Knee Pain and Stiffness

What does stiffness in my knee mean?

Stiffness in your knee could be many things, including early arthritis. Medications and other health problems can make your knee stiff. Or having a stiff knee could be normal for you.

If the stiffness limits your normal activities or you have swelling and/or pain that gets worse, talk to your doctor. Often, physical therapy can improve a stiff knee.

Could my knee pain from arthritis?

Yes. If you didn’t injure your knee and you’re 50 or older, the pain is probably from arthritis. Knee pain from arthritis (also called osteoarthritis) is caused by “wear and tear” on the knee. This happens over time. Pain from an injury is sudden.

When should I call a doctor about knee pain from arthritis?

If your knee pain doesn’t get better or if you have swelling that doesn’t go away, talk to your doctor. There are effective treatments for knee arthritis (also called osteoarthritis).

Is it normal for my knee to hurt after playing basketball?

If both of your knees are sore, it may be because you have changed or increased your activity. If one knee is sore and you didn’t hurt it, and the knee doesn’t get better, talk to your doctor.

Can anything be done to open up the space between the bones in my knee?

Once arthritis has narrowed the space between the bones in the knee, there isn’t any way to “open it up” again. Often, people with arthritis also have a stiff knee that makes the knee feel worse.

Our specialized knee arthritis physical therapy program helps relieve knee pain and stiffness. Many of our patients feel and function better within 4-6 weeks of starting physical therapy. If physical therapy doesn’t help enough, knee replacement may be an option.

Questions About Physical Therapy for Knee Arthritis

Does physical therapy work for knee arthritis?

Many doctors tell patients that physical therapy won’t help with knee pain and stiffness from arthritis. Our research shows that physical therapy definitely helps patients feel and function better.

76% of our patients didn’t need knee replacement surgery after completing our specialized knee arthritis physical therapy program. If physical therapy doesn’t help enough, knee replacement may be an option.

Why does Shelbourne Knee Center have patients do most physical therapy at home?

It is easier for you to do most physical therapy at home, especially if you’ve had knee replacement surgery, than to come into our office regularly. We designed our physical therapy program so you can do it at home.

Your physical therapist will teach you how to do your exercises and use the equipment. During periodic visits to our office, he or she will measure your progress and give you new exercises if you’re doing well.

Why is range of motion important?

Range of motion is the ability to straighten and bend your knee. If you have good range of motion, you’ll have less knee pain and will be able to function better.

If you need knee replacement surgery, improving your range of motion first helps you recover more easily afterwards. After surgery, improving your range of motion relieves pain and helps you function better.

That’s why our physical therapy program focuses on improving your range of motion both before and after surgery. Once you have good range of motion, we focus on strengthening your knee.

Questions About Knee Replacement Surgery

How do I know if I need a knee replacement?

Reasons to consider knee replacement surgery for arthritis include:

  • Severe knee pain that isn’t getting better and is interfering with your life.
  • Swelling that doesn’t get better with rest or medications.
  • Knee stiffness.
  • Knee pain hurts when you rest.

We believe that you should try physical therapy for knee arthritis before considering surgery. Most of our patients—76%—didn’t need knee replacement surgery after completing our specialized knee arthritis physical therapy program.

If physical therapy doesn’t help enough, knee replacement may be an option.

Why should I get a second opinion before having knee replacement surgery?

Orthopedic surgeons often have different opinions about the need for knee replacement surgery. A second opinion can help you decide whether this is the best treatment for you.

Also, there are different ways to do knee replacement surgery and different implants (artificial knees) that the surgeon can use. You should understand your options.

What should I know if I had a knee replacement but I’m not doing well?

If you don’t feel like you’re making progress after a knee replacement, see the surgeon who performed the procedure. If you’re not getting the answers or help that you need, get a second opinion.

You may just need better physical therapy to improve the function of your knee. But if your knee replacement wasn’t done right, you may need revision knee replacement surgery to fix the problem.

Many orthopedic surgeons who do knee replacements don't do revision surgery. Make sure that you see a surgeon who has a lot of experience in revision knee replacement surgery.