What are my treatment options for my knee arthritis? Can I avoid surgery? Will this pain ever go away? These are common questions we receive from patients with chronic knee pain. Various treatment options exist, but it’s important to customize a plan based on medical history, pain level and individual goals. Our goal is to get you moving and back to your daily life as quick and safe as possible.
What is Knee Arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation of the joint, and osteoarthritis is the most common arthritis that affects the knee. Over time, cartilage in the knee joint wears down. Without this protective cushion between the bones, bone to bone rubbing occurs which can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the knee.
Because this happens over time, osteoarthritis is most common in people over age 50, although it may occur in younger people as well. It is not always certain why arthritis of the knee develops. Most physicians believe that it is a combination of factors that can include muscle weakness, obesity, heredity, joint injury or stress, constant exposure to the cold, and aging.
Diagnosis of Knee Arthritis
Symptoms of knee arthritis include the following:
- Swelling or tenderness
- Pain when putting weight on your knee
- Soreness after activities
In addition to medical history review and physical examination, images (x-ray and/or MRI) will show arthritis development. In the x-ray, the reduced cushion space between the knees may be visible. Bone spurs and changes to the bone structure may also be present in the x-ray to confirm arthritis.
Many people are aware of knee pain relating to arthritis, and yet many are surprised to receive this diagnosis. Whatever the case may be, conservative and surgical treatment options exist. At Advanced Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, we take an individualized treatment approach, which we call the road map to wellness.
Road map to Wellness: conservative treatment
Identifying your goals is the first step of wellness. Returning to an active lifestyle? Avoiding surgery at all costs? Other medical reasons to consider? We will tailor a plan to fit your needs and goals.
Depending on the level of pain and damage suffered by a patient, we will recommend a treatment regimen that will relieve symptoms. Some of the most common recommendations include:
- Avoiding activities that make the pain worse
- Icing the knee for 20 to 30 minutes throughout the day to reduce inflammation
- Using over the counter anti-inflammatory medications and/or paracetamol (acetaminophen)
- Physical therapy
For many patients, injections to the knee may be an option for relieving pain. Depending on patient history, several different types of injections may be available.
Platelet-Rich Plasma – or PRP injections – use platelet rich blood to support healing. In PRP therapy, blood is drawn from the patient and then spun in a centrifuge. This is done to separate the platelets from other blood cells. These platelets are then injected into the damaged knee joint. It’s the growth factors in the platelets that can aid healing of the joint.
Corticosteroids are steroids that are injected directly into the knee joint to reduce inflammation. Patients who find corticosteroids successful receive these injections regularly every 3 to 4 months. Due to side effects, there is a limit to the time frame between injections.
Viscosupplements are injections that mimic the fluid between the knee bones. These injections provide cushioning and lubrication between the joint, which may relieve pain.
Regenerative medicine via stem cells is another less invasive option that may help reduce inflammation, promoting new blood flow, and set up body to heal itself.
If conservative treatment fails, knee replacement surgery becomes an option. Knee replacement is a very successful surgery but it does have risks.
Arthroscopy, although less common, can be used to treat meniscus tears causing knee pain.
Knee replacement surgery (Arthroplasty) is the most common surgical procedure for severe arthritis. Patients often suffer from arthritis in both knees. The damaged cartilage and bone is removed, and then new metal or plastic joint surfaces are put in place to restore the function of your knee. In a partial knee replacement surgery, only part of the knee is replaced. In a total knee replacement surgery, the whole knee is replaced.
As with all surgery, arthroplasty does come with risks. Infection, nerve or vascular injury, blood clots, loosening of the implant, need for further surgery, revision and those risks associated with anesthesia are some of the risks. It’s important for every patient to discuss these and personal medical history so a treatment plan can be developed.
Arthritis road map to wellness
Knee osteoarthritis is a common diagnosis for knee pain in population 50+. People have active lifestyles and want to move without pain. If you are experiencing knee pain, contact us for more information. We are here to put you back on the road to the life you love.