A patient with knee arthritis is typically over 50 years old, and will have gradually worsening knee pain. There is often also swelling and a change in the alignment of the leg, commonly  with bowing of the legs or development of a 'knock knee'.    Some people have restricted movement and can't fully straighten or bend the knee.

Specialists will exhaust all non-invasive treatment options before considering joint replacement. They will look at medication options (painkillers), the need to modify activities and exercise regimes, and may refer you to a physiotherapist to help make these decisions.

If legs are misaligned they may need a brace to offload weight from the painful part of the joint, and as symptoms get worse, injecting steroids into the joint can give good short term pain relief. There has also been a trend recently to inject blood products into the knee to ‘cure’ arthritis, but there is little evidence to date that this works.

As the arthritis develops and pain increases to the point where it significantly interferes with quality of life, you will need to consider a surgical solution. These include osteotomy (re-alignment surgery) and joint replacement.

Osteotomy surgery is performed in younger, more active patients as a temporary solution, as it usually pushes back the need for a joint replacement for 10-15 years. This is a great option for the right patient with the right pattern of arthritis, and an orthopaedic surgeon will quickly determine if it's right for you.

Joint replacement is the 'gold standard' treatment for older sufferers (those who have had arthritis for 10-15 years). There are many reasons for the increase in the numbers, but the main one is the increased effectiveness of the operation, both in terms of relieving pain but also helping people get back to doing all the activities they previously enjoyed.