Primary care treatment of knee pain--a survey in older adults

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2007 Nov;46(11):1694-700. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kem232. Epub 2007 Oct 15.


Objectives: To describe the treatment of knee pain in older adults in primary care and to compare reported practice with published evidence.

Methods: A semi-structured interview of older adults with knee pain about their use of 26 interventions for knee pain.

Results: 201 adults were interviewed. A median of six interventions had been advised for each participant, with heat and ice (84%) the most frequently advised, followed by paracetamol (71%), compound opioid analgesics (59%) and non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (59%). Three core treatments for knee pain (written information, exercise and weight loss) were advised to 16%, 46% and 39% of the participants, respectively. Half of the interventions had been initiated through 'self care'. Most core treatments had not been initiated before second-line interventions had been used, paracetamol being the exception. Referral to surgery was commonly initiated before more conservative options had been tried.

Conclusions: Interventions recommended as core treatment for knee pain in older adults were underused-in particular, exercise, weight loss and the provision of written information. There appeared to be early reliance on pharmacological treatments with underuse of non-pharmacological interventions in early treatment choices. Self care played an important role in the management of this condition. The study provides clear evidence on the need to improve the delivery of core treatments for osteoarthritis and highlights the need to support and encourage self care.

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / therapeutic use
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Cryotherapy
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / complications
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Self Care
  • Weight Loss


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Acetaminophen