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Osteoarthritis of the knee

Less knee pain. More life.

Elderly woman wearing an Ottobock Agilium Freestep sitting on a bank in the garden holding a cup
Elderly woman wearing an Ottobock Agilium Freestep sitting on a bank in the garden holding a cup
Elderly woman wearing an Ottobock Agilium Freestep sitting on a bank in the garden holding a cup

Take a new path – put a stop to osteoarthritic pain

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, although the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age, young and active people can also be affected by the disease.

Osteoarthritis most often develops in the knee. The diagnosis can make those affected feel uncertain, with many fearing they will always have knee pain. They wonder how long they will still be able to pursue their hobbies or climb stairs. Is there a way to reduce pain besides medication, or a way to avoid or delay an operation?

Yes, there is! There are many options for living an active life with osteoarthritis. In many cases, an orthosis can help reduce the pain, and help you regain your quality of life. Thanks to the appropriate orthosis, surgery can often be avoided. This page will tell you what you need to know about osteoarthritis of the knee. You will also find tips and information that will help you live your life with this condition.


Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee

Osteoarthritis of the knee (or “knee OA” for short) is a degenerative condition of the knee joint. It is incurable and leads to progressive changes in the knee. In the initial stage of arthrosis, you don’t experience any pain or restrictions in movement, or only at times. With advanced osteoarthritis of the knee, pain and discomfort can increase. Most people develop arthrosis over their lives due to wearing of the joints. Risk factors such as obesity, joint malposition, lack of exercise, overloading and incorrect loading of the joints in some types of sports or injuries accelerate joint wear and tear and can also create the conditions for arthrosis to develop in young people.

Osteoarthritic changes the knee joint

Osteoarthritis of the knee typically starts with signs of wear and tear in the joint cartilage. As time passes, the cartilage surface becomes rough and uneven and the joint no longer moves smoothly. Increasing friction leads to painful inflammation in the knee. In the advanced stages of osteoarthritis, cartilage damage increases and all the tissue involved in the joint is affected. The bones form spurs (osteophytes) and causes stiffening, in the process. Knee pain occurs and becomes more severe over time.

Disease progression: stages of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the knee is classified into four degrees of severity:

  1. The joint cartilage has invisible signs of degeneration. It’s less elastic than healthy cartilage and can’t recover well after being subjected to strain. Initial knee pain may occur under high strain.

  2. The cartilage tissue becomes thinner as well as rough and uneven and the bones form initial spurs (osteophytes). The knee’s ability to bear weight is decreased, and at this stage of osteoarthritis, progression can be effectively slowed by exercises, weight loss and medical devices such as orthoses.

  3. The cartilage has partly disappeared meaning the bones begin to rub against each other in some areas and X-rays show pronounced bone spurs and narrowing of the joint space. At this advanced stage, osteoarthritis causes considerable restrictions of movement and knee pain.

  4. The joint space has narrowed considerably and the joint cartilage has almost completely disappeared, with the bones often damaged as well as the joint being deformed and often inflamed. In this final stage, joint replacement surgery may be the best solution.

Medical drawing of a knee arthrosis progression

The vicious circle of osteoarthritis

Patients with osteoarthritis of the knee frequently get caught in a vicious circle: In order to relieve the pain in their knee, the affected person exercises less and often adopts a certain posture to avoid discomfort. However, restricting their movement only provides short-term relief from pain. In the long run, a lack of exercise accelerates cartilage wear and increases pain in the knee. The affected person rests their knee even more often instead of exercising it, and the vicious circle closes. Furthermore, the unnatural posture they take to avoid discomfort also puts excessive strain on other joints such as the hips.

Drawing of a red circle around a human knee

Initial symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee

The sooner osteoarthritis of the knee is diagnosed and actively addressed, the better the chances of getting knee pain under control. Maintaining joint mobility and slowing down the progressive changes in the knee joint will lead to a more positive outcome.

If you experience the following symptoms in your knee on a recurring basis, you should contact your doctor:

  • Knee pain after rest (start-up pain)

  • Knee pain after exertion

  • Knee pain during certain movements

  • Knee stiffness

  • Grinding and cracking in the knee joint

  • Swelling and inflammation in the knee

Lower body of a person in a garden holding their knee with the hands

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Diagnosis and therapy

Diagnosis and therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee

If you have knee pain or limited knee function, you should first contact your doctor who will put you in touch with an orthotist.

Diagnosing osteoarthritis of the knee

When talking to your doctor, you should give a detailed description of your knee problems and answer their questions precisely. In addition to the knee pain, other health information such as osteoarthritis in other joints, injuries, infections or chronic diseases may also be relevant. During the examination, the doctor will look at your knee and check its functions. They will then if necessary take an X-ray to see if any visible changes have already developed in the joint. In some cases, further examinations will be necessary to arrive at a diagnosis. Depending on the case, these include, for example, blood or joint fluid samples as well as other imaging procedures.

Doctor sitting in front of a patient holding an X-ray image of a knee and talking to the patient

Therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee

There are three basic treatment methods for osteoarthritis of the knee: conservative (non-invasive) therapy, invasive joint-preserving therapy and invasive joint-replacing therapy. The term invasive is used for any treatment in which the doctor makes changes to the knee joint.

Pain relief

Orthoses can relieve knee pain

Knee or lower-leg-foot-braces, such as the Agilium Freestep, specifically relieve the painful areas in the knee joint and can provide sustainable relief from knee pain. This has been confirmed by studies. In many cases, orthoses can help those affected by osteoarthritis of the knee to stop using analgesics or decrease the dose of medication. Side effects from the medication are effectively avoided or reduced. Knee or lower-leg-foot-orthoses enable patients with osteoarthritis of the knee to move around and engage in sports with almost no pain. In this way, they’re able to break the vicious circle of pain, lack of exercise and progressive deterioration of the arthrosis.

“Most of my patients are very satisfied with the new orthosis. More than half of them have been able to avoid surgery so far.”

Portrait of Doctor Stinus
Dr. Stinus

Taking a new path with orthoses from Ottobock

Find out about the experiences that patients with osteoarthritis of the knee have had and how they are taking new paths with orthoses from Ottobock.

Orthoses from Ottobock: solutions for different knee problems

Ottobock has developed tailor-made orthoses for different knee problems. Get an overview of the range of Ottobock orthoses for osteoarthritis of the knee here. Based on simple questions, Agilium Select takes just a few minutes to determine which brace is right for your knee problem and your lifestyle.


Osteoarthritis Agilium Line patient magazine

In the patient information you will receive information on the clinical picture of retropatellar arthrosis. Treatment options and the function of the orthosis are also shown.
In the patient information you will receive information on the clinical picture of retropatellar arthrosis. Treatment options and the function of the orthosis are also shown.

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Active against arthrosis

Active against arthrosis

Osteoarthritis of the knee cannot be cured, but you can effectively alleviate pain and discomfort and significantly improve your quality of life if you actively counteract the arthrosis with conscious nutrition and appropriate exercise.


Nutrition can play an important role in slowing osteoarthritis. Foods such as fruits and vegetables as well as salads, plant oils, nuts and seeds should make up the base of your meals. Fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring are rich in nutrients and Omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation. So if possible, it is recommend to eat healthy fish twice a week. Some spices not only improve the taste of food, but they are also good for the joints: turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander have an anti-inflammatory and decongestant effect. While, chilli and ginger help to relieve pain. Meat can be eaten in moderation, but chicken and other poultry birds are preferable. Beef and pork should consumed only now and again. It’s best to avoid processed and 'fast' foods that contain high amounts of fat and sugar as well as alcohol and nicotine products. If you are overweight, losing weight will take the strain off your joints and help reduce knee pain whilst also making you feel lighter and fitter overall.

Woman standing in a kitchen holding a plate with food and looking outside similing

Exercise in everyday life

Regular exercise is essential to counteracting the progressive changes caused by osteoarthritis, maintaining knee function and relieving pain. You should therefore make time for exercise in your daily routine. This can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, running small errands on foot or by bike instead of using the car and relax with an walk during your lunchbreak or after work. Exercise isn't just good for your knee, it also helps your mind.

Male person wearing an Ottobock Agilium Freestep in a garage kneels in front of a scooter and investigates the spark plug

“Exercise is essential for osteoarthritis patients because muscle inactivity results in a joint that is unstable, weak and misaligned. And that’s why exercise, muscle training and compensating for misalignments have to be the key factors in counteracting osteoarthritis.”

Christian Krone

Types of sports

In addition to everyday exercise, regularly engaging in certain sports is ideal for keeping osteoarthritis under control. Swimming, water aerobics, Nordic walking, biking or long walks, can maintain knee mobility and prevent pain. They also strengthen your leg muscles and promote your overall mobility and endurance. The most important rule is to keep moving, without overexerting yourself. This will have a positive effect on your knee joints, and you’ll feel better and more mobile in general.

It’s better to avoid sports that put a lot of strain on the knee joint due to abrupt stops, tight turns or high pressure at certain points. This includes most ball sports (football or rugby for example), martial arts or racket sports.

Woman wearing an Agilium Freestep 3.0 walking with hiking poles in a green park next to a male person

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Frequently asked questions about osteoarthritis of the knee

Back to everyday activities: three steps to an Ottobock orthosis

  1. Here you’ll find an overview of all the orthoses and supports that could potentially help you. Take the list with you to your next doctor’s appointment.
  2. Talk to your doctor about which orthosis is best suited to your symptoms and condition. Your doctor can then write you a prescription for the appropriate orthosis.
  3. Take your prescription to a medical supply company. They’ll give you your new orthosis and adjust it to fit your exact body measurements.

Active again thanks to the Agilium: four people talk about their lives

Christoph with the Agilium Freestep

Christoph has osteoarthritis of the knee. “The Agilium Freestep 3.0 lets me do many things I couldn’t have done before. I can’t imagine a day without the brace.”


Our products for osteoarthritis of the knee

Thanks to the Agilium line of products, many satisfied patients have been able to resume their regular everyday activities. Learn more about the individual orthoses and how they help people with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Want to know more? Contact us using the form below.