Guidelines for the medical management of osteoarthritis. Part II. Osteoarthritis of the knee. American College of Rheumatology

Arthritis Rheum. 1995 Nov;38(11):1541-6. doi: 10.1002/art.1780381104.


Treatment of patients with OA of the knee should be individualized and tailored to the severity of the symptoms. In individuals with mild symptomatic OA, treatment may be limited to patient education, physical and occupational therapy and other nonpharmacologic modalities, and pharmacologic therapy including non-opioid oral and topical analgesics. In patients who are unresponsive to this treatment regimen, the use of NSAIDs in addition to nonpharmacologic therapy is appropriate unless medically contraindicated. Judicious use of intraarticular steroid injections has a role either as monotherapy or an adjunct to systemic therapy in patients with knee OA who have symptomatic effusions. The role of joint lavage and arthroscopic debridement in patients with OA of the knee who are unresponsive to conservative medical therapy needs further study, and these procedures cannot be routinely recommended for all patients at this time. Patients with severe symptomatic OA of the knee require an aggressive approach to decreasing pain, increasing mobility, and decreasing functional impairment; such patients may benefit from orthopedic consultation and evaluation for osteotomy or total joint arthroplasty.

Publication types

  • Guideline
  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Contraindications
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Injections, Intra-Articular
  • Knee Joint*
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*
  • Patient Education as Topic


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal