More than a million surgeries are performed every year to help people suffering from arthritis of the knee. While such surgery is sometimes the best option, two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, one in 2002 and one in 2008, found that physical therapy and medications can be just as effective as arthroscopy to reduce pain and improve function in selected cases.
You may want to avoid surgery for many reasons—the cost, the risks, the recovery time—and it is certainly worth trying less-invasive interventions before going under the knife. A multiple-intervention approach, involving therapies used to treat arthritis of the knee, may be your best bet.
These interventions include the following:
- Losing weight. Losing 10 to 15 pounds can significantly improve the way your knee moves and feels. Each pound of body weight translates to more weight coming down on your knee every time you take a step. Decreasing the load reduces the pain.
- Pain relief. Your physician may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen or pain-relieving injections, such as corticosteroids, to help relieve discomfort for the short term.
- Correcting knee misalignment. Wearing a lateral wedge in your shoe can help correct misaligned knees that contribute to the pain you feel from the arthritis.
- Physical therapy. Most importantly, a good physical therapy program is essential for those trying to avoid surgery. Muscle weakness around the knee and hip contributes to pain and stiffness, and it is important to strengthen and stretch the muscles in your hips and thighs. We can design a program that involves low-impact activities that focus on these areas. Remember, keeping the joint healthy and lubricated is important to counteract arthritis, and gentle exercise is an easy, natural way to accomplish this.
Sometimes, even after attempting these interventions, surgery is necessary. But the good news is that engaging in a physical therapy program prior to surgery can make the recovery process much easier. If your physician feels you are able to try other alternatives before resorting to surgery, it is definitely worth a shot—there’s nothing to lose, and so much to gain. Also, we can assess your needs and develop a rehabilitation program that provides a complete recovery after knee surgery if required.