Alternatives to Knee Replacement Surgery
Knee osteoarthritis affects large increasing numbers of Americans as the population ages but remains very active. While knee replacement surgery offers excellent results and is indicated for many patients, non-operative management remains the first line of treatment in decreasing pain and restoring quality of life. Non-operative treatment can involve one or several different options.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication can reduce swelling and pain allowing improved function. These medications (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) do have potential negative side effects and their use should be managed/monitored by either your primary care physician or your orthopedist.
Other treatments may include injections or physical therapy. Injections, steroid or gel (hyaluronic acid), can provide relief of arthritic pain for weeks or even months and can allow a patient to delay the consideration of surgery. Other newer injections such as stem cell injections are being closely evaluated for their effectiveness. Physical therapy can be helpful in strengthening muscles which have become weak due to arthritic pain. With stronger muscles the joint is better protected leading to decreased pain and improved function. Even if surgery is required, stronger muscles make surgical recovery and rehab better. Supportive bracing of the knee can also be helpful, especially when the arthritis causes instability with tendency for the knee to “give way”.
Discussion with your orthopedic surgeon can help you decide which forms of non-operative management may be most beneficial in each individual case. When these measures fail, you and your surgeon can best decide when it is appropriate to consider surgery to address persistent arthritis pain and dysfunction.