Knee Osteoarthritis – Physiotherapy

Knee Osteoarthritis is one of the most common and debilitating joint disorders diagnosed today.  Millions suffer from the resulting disability and pain.

What is Knee Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition of the weight-bearing joints (such as the knees). Generally, it affects individuals over 50 years of age and is usually unilateral, involving only one knee.  In some cases, however, both knees are involved.  As we age the protective knee cartilage erodes, allowing bone to rub against bone, resulting in pain and swelling of the knee joint.

In some cases, osteoarthritis may have an underlying genetic factor that affects cartilage development and  the shape of the articulating bones.  Research has demonstrated that osteoarthritis tends to run in families.

Signs and symptoms:

The process of cartilage erosion is slow but progressive.  The signs and symptoms include:

  • knee pain that worsens after any activity as simple as walking;
  • tender knees that may be swollen and hot to the touch due to an active inflammatory response;
  • stiffness of the knee joint, especially pronounced in the morning hours after waking up but improves with activity;
  • restricted range of motion that greatly limits flexibility and locomotion;
  • a grating sensation felt when bone strikes bone because the protective cartilage has thinned;
  • bone spurs may form further aggravating pain and limiting locomotion.

How does it develop?

All weight-bearing joints are supported and protected by cartilaginous cushions that protect the bony surfaces from damage and friction-related injuries. Eventually, natural wear and tear of life erodes the protective cartilage, leaving no cushioning for articulating bony surfaces.

The following factors aggravate the damage to the cartilage and increases the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee joint:

  •  advancing age and the cumulative wear and tear on the knee joint;
  • obesity  increases stress on the knees, accelerating the wear and tear factor;
  • post-menopausal females become more vulnerable than males of the same age;
  • prior history of joint diseases, malformations or joint injuries as a result of trauma ;
  • any injury that damages the ligaments of the knee joint aggravates the cartilage destruction;
  • hormonal aberration like diabetes, thyroid disorders and disorders of parathyroid gland can add stress to the knee joint, increasing the potential of developing knee-osteoarthritis;
  • occupational factors requiring excessive bending, lifting and over-use of the knee increase the stress or strain on the knee joint and lead to elevated cartilaginous damage;
  • certain lifestyle factors such as alcoholism and inactivity also affect cartilaginous damage by interfering with the blood supply to the knee joint.

For a personalized assessment of your knees by one of our Toronto Physiotherapists please call 416-900-6653 Today!


  • Sharon Gabison

    Registered Physiotherapist BSc, BScPT, MSc, PhD: A graduate of the University of Toronto in Human Biology, Sharon completed her Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto. She went on to pursue further graduate work, completing her Master of Science from the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute and a PhD from the Institute of Medical Science both from the University of Toronto. Her interest in Physiotherapy originated while pursuing her first undergraduate degree while struggling with postural challenges and seeking physiotherapy treatment. Her interest in medicine, working with people, and developing and adhering to therapeutic plans inspired her to pursue a career in Physiotherapy. Her interest in research, orthopaedics, neurology, therapeutic agents and pressure injuries (bed sores) lead her to pursue graduate work. Sharon emphasizes a holistic approach to rehabilitation. Her experience of raising a son with a disability has continued to inform her career that has spanned over 25 years. She is able to appreciate the rehabilitation process not only from the professional perspective, but from the client perspective. Her extensive knowledge of biomechanics, orthopaedics, exercise prescription, electrophysical agents with a strong background in research enables her to provide evidence based treatment when designing and implementing rehabilitation plans. With a special interest in patient and family engagement through her volunteer work, Sharon is able to ensure that treatment that is provided takes into consideration the unique challenges that individuals may experience when adhering to treatment recommendations in their busy lives.

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