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Modern Treatments for Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones at the knee joint gradually wear down. Cartilage is the firm tissue enabling frictionless joint motion, and protects the bones from rubbing against each other. When this protective cartilage wears down, though, the bone rubs on bone and deteriorates the connective tissues holding the joint together. Those at risk for knee osteoarthritis are usually carrying extra body weight, as this adds stress to the weight-bearing joints, including the hips. Joint injuries and repeated stress on the knees can also increase your risk. Some of the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis include continuous pain, stiffness, tenderness, loss of flexibility, and a grating sensation, among others, all of which can be treated with a conservative approach, or knee replacement surgery, if necessary.

Do I Need Knee Replacement Surgery?

Before any surgery, most orthopedic surgeons will exhaust all conservative, nonsurgical methods first. While knee osteoarthritis is usually manageable, the damage done to the knee cartilage cannot be undone. However, the progression of the disease might be slowed down by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. One treatment reserved for those with advanced osteoarthritis, both to relieve pain and restore the function of the knee joint, is knee replacement surgery. Also called knee arthroplasty, this operation can effectively improve your knees’ range of motion, strength, and stability. This is for a number of reasons, including the fact that there are risks associated with the procedure, and that artificial joints can wear out over time. This risk is especially prevalent in those who are carrying excess weight or participate in high-impact activities.  

Some of the conservative treatments that can effectively treat knee osteoarthritis include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medication: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can effectively fight inflammation associated with knee osteoarthritis.
  • Topical creams: Over-the-counter ointments can relieve joint pain, and stronger versions are available with a prescription.
  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises can strengthen the muscles supporting the knees, and a physical therapist can help determine whether you need supportive braces, splints, or assistive devices to walk comfortably.
  • Weight loss: It’s a fact that every pound you gain puts an extra 3 pounds of pressure on the knees. Even if you are a good candidate for knee replacement surgery, your odds of a successful operation are much higher if you lose excess weight beforehand.

When it’s Time for Knee Replacement Surgery

The relief offered by knee replacement surgery is immense and may even last a lifetime. However, it can take months to recover fully, and everyday life will be more difficult to navigate during recovery, such as the difficulty climbing stairs. Your doctor will evaluate whether you are a good candidate judging by your age, overall health, your current weight, activity level, and the shape and size of your affected knee.

If you fail to heal completely from conservative therapies, you can discuss knee replacement with your doctor. You should tell your doctor right away if your knee pain limits your everyday activities, or if you have severe pain while resting.

QualCare Rehabilitation can help you feel your best. Contact us at (713) 588-0042 to arrange an appointment.