Chronic knee pain is a very common and serious concern in our society. Statistics show that knee pain affects significant numbers of people, with one study reporting a prevalence of 58% among older females. While some people with knee problems can live a relatively good quality of life, others find their mobility severely affected.
If a knee injury or condition affecting the knee joint is disrupting your life, negatively impacting work, hobbies and relationships, it’s crucial to keep a positive yet proactive mindset. There are effective treatments that can help you overcome knee problems and a great first step is educating yourself as a patient. Our expert team has created the following guide to help you better understand your knee joint and treatment options so you can work more closely with your physician or surgeon.
We’re here to help, and welcome you to reach out with questions or if you’d like to learn more about how you can start your journey to relief from knee pain.
Understanding the Knee Joint and Causes of Knee Pain
The knee joint is made of three bones, the femur, the tibia and the patella, that are linked by a collection of ligaments, muscles and tendons that keep the joint strong but flexible. As a synovial joint, the knee is cushioned by cartilage and lubricated by fluid that enables smooth motion and flexibility.
Our knees are so injury prone because of the tremendous amount of stress we put on it each day, combined with the natural aging process. A knee Injury, such as a sprain, strain or tear, can develop due to sudden trauma or repetitive motion.
The other major contributor to knee pain and knee problems is the natural aging process which causes knee joint degeneration.
Why Knee Problems Occur Over and Over — Natural Degeneration
As we get older, our bodies basically lose water content and dry out. This makes soft tissue, including joint cartilage and connective tissue become more brittle. As this material that cushions the knee joint and other joints wears down, it eventually causes bone-on-bone contact and results in joint inflammation. Over the years, this inflammation and friction leads to severe joint instability and pain.
In addition to causing joint damage by itself, it can also make knee injury more likely, and recovery more difficult. This is the primary reason why it feels like you may be constantly struggling with knee pain as you get older.
There are a wide range of effective treatments, with many people finding success by actively pursuing conservative therapies. Although there is no way to reverse knee joint damage caused by degeneration, focusing on managing symptoms and improving knee function can be highly effective.
Developing an Effective Knee Injury Treatment Plan
Upon diagnosis of an injury or condition that causes knee joint damage, the goal of conservative therapy is to relieve symptoms while taking steps to improve function and stability in the knee. Patients should also take steps to promote overall knee health.
Common options include:
- Over-the-counter medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Heat therapy to relax tense muscles and improve circulation
- Cold therapy to reduce inflammation and cause temporary pain relief
- Physical therapy to improve range of motion, help mechanical issues and stabilize the knee joint
- Pain-relieving steroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation
- Viscosupplementation to help lubricate a degenerative joint
Along with these therapies, patients should also fully pursue any recommended lifestyle changes associated with risk of knee problems, including weight management and weight reduction,and improvements in nutrition. It is estimated that we put four pounds for every one pound of weight on the knees with each step. So, every extra pound that a person can lose means four pounds of force removed from the knees with every step.
Participating in low-impact exercise helps mobilize joints and maintain cardiovascular fitness. A nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet can help relieve pain and promote the health of the knee joint.
Overcoming knee pain over a long-term basis requires commitment. You should be prepared to work closely and take a collaborative approach with your treatment professionals. Everyone is different, so it may take some trial and error to develop the right combination of knee pain treatments that work for you.
Understanding Your Options for Knee Replacement Surgery
If weeks or months of fully exploring conservative treatment do not bring relief, knee joint surgery can become a serious consideration. For knee injuries such as meniscus or ligament tears, arthroscopic repair surgery is the standard approach. In more serious cases, including injuries that cause knee joint surface damage, or joint damage due to degenerative or post-traumatic arthritis, a surgeon may recommend knee replacement surgery
Depending on the severity and extent of joint damage, there are two primary approaches to knee joint replacement surgery, total procedures and partial procedures:
- Total Knee Replacement — Also known as total knee arthroplasty, this is a surgical procedure that resurfaces the knee joint bones, replacing them with implants.This usually involve your surgeon removing damaged cartilage and bone from the surfaces at the ends of the major bones in the knee joint. Then, the surgeon can position implants and secure them to the bone, typically with surgical cement that works like a grout. A durable and flexible plastic insert (many call this the “new cartilage”) will be placed between the metal pieces to cushion the knee and allow movement without friction
- Partial Knee Replacement — This is a surgical option that replaces only the damaged portion or compartment of the knee while maintaining knee ligaments and cartilage that are not affected by degenerative arthritis. In this surgical procedure, an implant replaces the damaged surfaces of the knee. During the procedure, the surgeon will make a small incision to access the affected area of the knee joint. Supporting structures of the knee joint are gently moved aside. Following this removal, the surgeon will prepare the surfaces of the knee to place the prosthesis.
Recovery from these procedures vary from patient to patient. It’s important to follow all postoperative instructions and to commit fully to any recommended physical therapy and rehabilitation. One of the best ways to ensure a successful outcome is to work with a surgeon who can perform a streamlined, outpatient procedure using the latest surgical advances.
The OJRCA Difference for Knee Replacement Procedures
For patients considering their options for knee replacement surgery, Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America (OJRCA) is an experienced leader in the field. Our expert medical team has developed a unique pain prevention protocol that represents the state of the art for knee joint replacement recovery and allows for a streamlined outpatient experience. However, even patients with medical problems that require hospitalization can also benefit from the OJRCA protocol.
This means less postoperative pain, reduced need for pain medication and the ability to be up and moving faster. With outpatient surgery, our patients benefit from less risk of certain complications such as blood clots, and a faster recovery time, helping you get back to the healthy and active lifestyle you deserve.
Knee pain does not have to keep you on the sidelines of your own life. No matter where you are on your knee pain treatment journey, the caring and experienced OJRCA team can help you on your way.
Contact us online or call us at (813) 492-4607.