Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Living with knee arthritis and making the best of it

6/7/2021 by Lori McGowan, P.A.-C.


Whether you like to play sports, play with your grandkids or take a walk with your loved one, if you have arthritis, you quickly become aware of how it affects your quality of life. 

Arthritis is one of the most common conditions seen in primary care. Symptoms can include pain, loss of motion, stiffness, or difficulty walking or going up and down stairs. Pain can be mild to severe, affect daily activities, or increase the risk of falling. 

Tips to improve joint health and decrease pain

Here are some tips to improve joint health and decrease pain:

  • It's all about the load. 
    Your body weight is extremely impactful on your knees. Consider low-impact exercise. Be consistent with tolerable activities — cycling, swimming or walking. Physical therapists can help with exercises to work into a daily routine. Avoid high-impact activities like running. 
  • My knees give out. 
    Consider physical therapy and an assistive device. Examples include a cane, crutches, walking stick, or braces or sleeves. 
  • There is inflammation, too. 
    Arthritis creates an inflammatory response in the joint. Over-the-counter topical gels or oral pain relievers — if indicated by your medical provider — can improve pain and reduce swelling. 
  • What supplements can help? 
    While controversial, glucosamine has been suggested to improve pain and reduce the progression of arthritis. 
  • Is it time for a shot? 
    Many types of injections can supply temporary relief. Two common options are cortisone or viscosupplementation, a gel like fluid that acts as a lubricant. 
  • What's new? 
    Regenerative options, such as stem cell procedures — platelet-rich plasma or bone marrow aspirate concentrate — can be considered. Radiofrequency ablation, a nonsurgical procedure that uses heat to reduce the transmission of pain, is another choice to treat pain. 
  • What about surgery? 
    When you have tried everything and feel that conservative measures have failed, talk to your health care provider about an orthopedic consult. You may want to consider total or partial knee replacement, or other less-invasive surgeries. 

Living with arthritis can be debilitating and prevent you from doing things you love to do. Talk to your health care provider about ways to improve your function and manage your pain. 

Lori McGowan, P.A.-C., is a certified physician assistant in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. She practices in the adult Integrated Community Specialties — Musculoskeletal Division at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where she helps patients with hip, knee, shoulder, foot and ankle orthopedic conditions.