Our knees suffer from wear and tear over the years. It has been estimated that about one in seven adults will develop osteoarthritis of the knee. This percentage increases as we get older and goes even higher if we become obese. Unfortunately there is no cure for this problem other than surgery, but what has been learned about medical treatments?
There have been some controlled studies on the medical treatment of knee arthritis. The results published in the Annals of Internal Medicine contained some surprises.
The least effective drug was acetaminophen (Tylenol) even though it is the most commonly recommended. It was only slightly better than a placebo. The best of the oral drugs for pain relief was diclofenac, followed by ibuprofen and then naproxen. Celebrex was only slightly more effective than tylenol.
The most effective treatment for knee pain was an injection. There are basically two types of compounds injected into the knee for pain. One is a corticosteroid (cortisone). The other is hyaluronic acid (synvisc). Either of these were more effective than an injected placebo. A very interesting observation was that an injected placebo was as beneficial as any of the oral drugs. We are not surprised by this observation because it well known that the placebo effect is very powerful. In simple terms it means that if we are told that something will help us, chances are that it will.
A final thought that we repeat over and over again is that exercise and weight loss are important for overall health as well as reducing pain from arthritis of the knee.