Illness experiences in middle-aged adults with early-stage knee osteoarthritis: findings from a qualitative study

J Adv Nurs. 2014 Jul;70(7):1564-72. doi: 10.1111/jan.12313. Epub 2013 Nov 15.


Aim: To understand the illness experiences of middle-aged adults with early knee osteoarthritis.

Background: Knee osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of lower limb disability in middle-aged adults and older people. Nurses lack understanding of the illness experiences of middle-aged patients who were confirmed to have early knee osteoarthritis and of how they manage the disease in Taiwan.

Design: A qualitative descriptive design was applied.

Methods: Participants with knee osteoarthritis, aged 40-55 years, were recruited by purposive sampling (n = 17). The data were collected through semi-structured interviews from July-December 2010. All interview transcripts were analysed using qualitative inductive content analysis to identify key themes.

Findings: Illness experiences of the seventeen participants were classified into three major themes: (i) unfamiliarity with osteoarthritis; (ii) effects on daily life; and (iii) protection and alleviation. The three main themes occurred repeatedly and affected the life experiences of the patients.

Conclusions: This study indicates that patients with osteoarthritis have insufficient knowledge related to disease process and they do not know how to cope effectively. They need healthcare providers to supply them with adequate osteoarthritis disease information. Nurses should also develop interventions in their practices and guide patients to use suitable techniques to improve the functional status of their knee joint(s).

Keywords: adult; knee joint; middle-aged; nursing; osteoarthritis; qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / nursing
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / physiopathology*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / psychology
  • Taiwan