How can you treat knee osteoarthritis?

Currently, there is no known way of ‘curing’ arthritis or reversing the condition. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do!!

In fact, many people with knee osteoarthritis (even those in ‘advanced stages’ of osteoarthritis) can make meaningful improvements in their symptoms and function and avoid the need for surgery.

The understanding treatments section is designed to give you a thorough understanding of the current treatment options that exist for people with knee osteoarthritis.


If you’d like to test your knowledge on what you know about the treatment of osteoarthritis before reading our content, click on the icon to the left! Otherwise, continue reading our content below.





Treatment for knee osteoarthritis is broken down into 3 tiers; simply,  first, second and third line treatment. The image to the right summarises what each tier involves. Click on the ‘i’ in the image or use the menu bar at the top of the page to learn more about each tier of care.


The rest of the ‘understanding treatments’ section provides you with more information about first, second and third-line treatment options. Use the menu at the top of this page to find the information you want. Also, see our list of FAQ’s about treatments in general below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Most people with knee osteoarthritis can improve their pain and function by engaging in first-line care. This is great as it is a cost-effective way to manage your symptoms.

If you are looking for some guidance, either speak to your healthcare professional or create your own resource using our ‘personalised guide maker’ here. After deciding what you want in your guide you will be provided with a booklet (pdf) that you can either keep electronically to help you, or print it off and keep it as a guide to assist in your self-management.


Having trouble believing this? then check out the below videos of people who managed to avoid surgery by engaging with first-line treatments.



If you want to find out more about the GLAD programme mentioned then click here.

It is very difficult to determine what ‘100%’ is for everyone.

First-line treatments are known to improve pain, function and quality of life. 

Although people can significantly improve symptoms and live happy, meaningful lives doing the things they enjoy, most people with knee osteoarthritis still have a remaining discomfort, or have episodes where their symptoms flare-up. This is part of the lived experience of knee osteoarthritis, however over time it is possible to reduce the amount of flare-ups you have, and also improve your recovery afterwards.


But what about with a knee replacement?

Some people believe that having a knee replacement means that you are taking out all of the ‘osteoarthritis’ and therefore your knee should feel ‘like new’. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. Even people who undergo surgery can have pain and restrictions in function. See our information about surgery in the third-line treatments section. Remember though that even if you have surgery – you will still need to engage in first-line treatments before and after your operation.


Whatever treatments you decide, its important to remember that your symptoms do not always get worse over time. There is plenty that you can do to help yourself and your condition.

It is common for people who have knee osteoarthritis to avoid things that cause pain. This tends to be due to the belief that pain equals damage – but this isn’t true! You can find out more about pain in the ‘understanding symptoms‘ page.

Our knees respond well to being used and loaded in different ways. Therefore there is nothing that you should be ‘avoiding’, BUT – there may be a few things that you need to adapt, or build up slowly towards. For example if you have avoided stairs for many weeks/years then it would be wise to build up your tolerance to stairs again slowly over a period of time.

If you happen to ‘over do it’ one day and get a temporary increase in your symptoms (also known as a flare-up), then click here to see what we (and other people with knee osteoarthritis) advise.

The best long-term option is first-line treatments of:

What treatment advice do other people with knee osteoarthritis recommend?

Resources and additional information

Click on any topic to view the resource

Image: GLA:D treatment pyramid

Infographic: Treatment options overview (to build infographic then add here)

This resource has been developed by the Australian commission on safety and quality in healthcare to educate and support decision making for people to understand their treatment options

Under construction – this section will reference the GLA:D paper and Clinical practice guidelines

Next – Education and self-management