Understanding the Stages of Knee Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis, and it most often affects the largest joint in the body: the knee. Frequently referred to as “wear and tear arthritis”, osteoarthritis is a progressive disease of the joints and is also considered a common chronic joint condition. Knee osteoarthritis develops with time, and can go undetected for a long period, even years, as many people do not experience or recognize their symptoms until the disease has progressed to the point of considerable damage.

There are four stages of knee osteoarthritis. Understanding the beginning symptoms and seeking medical attention early on may help you address ways to handle the condition and prevent severe damage to your knee. Learn about the stages, signs, and symptoms to watch out for below.

Stage 0

When you have a healthy knee and show no signs of osteoarthritis, you are at stage 0.

Stage 1

At this stage, you will most likely not experience knee pain, although the cartilage may be somewhat damaged. Bone spurs may also develop. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is sometimes difficult to detect during this stage, because diagnostic imaging may not reveal a problem.

Stage 2

Stage 2 is characterized by more noticeable symptoms. You may begin to feel mild discomfort and stiffness. These symptoms are often onset by exercise or remaining in one position for a long period of time (sleep, sitting, etc.). During this stage, the joint space begins to narrow and cartilage begins to mildly break down.

While the joint space is narrowing at stage 2, bone on bone friction does not occur thanks to synovial fluid. Synovial fluid helps reduce friction between the articular cartilage of synovial joints during movement. Unlike stage 1, diagnostic imaging will provide a better indication of cartilage wear and tear, as well as bone spurs.

Stage 3

Stage 3 is considered the moderate stage of osteoarthritis. Daily tasks and activities may become painful due to the continued narrowing of the space between bones in the knee and further cartilage damage. Even simple movements, such as kneeling or walking, may cause discomfort, and exercise often aggravates symptoms due to joint inflammation. Swelling, joint stiffness, popping sensations and locking are other noticeable symptoms. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should consult with a doctor and have diagnostic images taken to identify cartilage loss. When the cartilage loss progresses during this stage, the bone becomes rougher, thicker and spur growth becomes more of an issue.

Stage 4

Stage 4 is the most severe stage of osteoarthritis. Because of the fully progressed state of cartilage breakdown and bone-on-bone friction, you typically experience more intense (even excruciating) pain and discomfort when moving. Patients in stage 4 have a difficult time walking and using stairs because they are battling persistent inflammation and a lack of synovial fluid and cartilage to cushion the joint.

At the first signs of knee pain and discomfort, do not hesitate to consult with one of our talented, fellowship trained knee specialists. Our patient-centered approach means you will receive customized care to treat your knee osteoarthritis. Each knee specialist at Rebound uses innovative techniques and the latest technological advancements to help you quickly resume a fully functional, pain-free lifestyle as quickly as possible.


Related Resources:

What is Osteoarthritis?

MAKOplasty Joint Resurfacing and Replacement

A Guide to Knee Replacement Surgery

What is Prolotherapy?

Five Quick Exercise Tips for Knee Pain