Treatment without surgery
You and your doctor may decide there are some things you can do now to see if you can manage your pain without surgery.
What can I do now?
Weight loss and exercise may help.1 Talk with your doctor about the types of exercises that may strengthen your leg muscles and help reduce pain. For people with mild or moderate osteoarthritis of the knee, certain exercises, like walking, may help improve how their knee feels and help them postpone surgery.1
Physical therapists can help lessen your pain by teaching better posture or “form” for your day-to-day activities, like getting in and out of a chair. Physical therapists can also teach you how to use assistive tools like a cane or walker so you can be more active with less stress on your knees. Your physical therapist may also recommend walking and strengthening exercises depending on your anatomy, joint functioning, and disease progression.
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medicines to take the edge off the swelling and pain in your knee joint. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, and steroid medications, like corticosteroid injections, may be helpful.2 Use of these medications must be monitored by your doctor.
Talk with your doctor about the non-surgical approaches to decreasing your knee pain. If these approaches don’t lessen your pain, you’ve still got options.
- Avoiding hip or knee surgery: Harvard Health Letter. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, June 2013. www.health.harvard.edu/pain/avoiding-knee-or-hip-surgery.
- Cortisone shots. Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cortisone-shots/about/pac-20384794. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.
Total knee replacement is intended for use in individuals with joint disease resulting from degenerative, rheumatoid and post-traumatic arthritis, and for moderate deformity of the knee.
Knee replacement surgery is not appropriate for patients with certain types of infections, any mental or neuromuscular disorder which would create an unacceptable risk of prosthesis instability, prosthesis fixation failure or complications in postoperative care, compromised bone stock, skeletal immaturity, severe instability of the knee, or excessive body weight.
As with any surgery, knee replacement surgery has serious risks which include, but are not limited to, pain, infection, bone fracture, peripheral neuropathies (nerve damage), circulatory compromise (including deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs)), genitourinary disorders (including kidney failure), gastrointestinal disorders (including paralytic ileus (loss of intestinal digestive movement)), vascular disorders (including thrombus (blood clots), blood loss, or changes in blood pressure or heart rhythm), bronchopulmonary disorders (including emboli, stroke or pneumonia), heart attack, and death.
Implant related risks which may lead to a revision include dislocation, loosening, fracture, nerve damage, heterotopic bone formation (abnormal bone growth in tissue), wear of the implant, metal and/or foreign body sensitivity, soft tissue imbalance, osteolysis (localized progressive bone loss), and reaction to particle debris. Knee implants may not provide the same feel or performance characteristics experienced with a normal healthy joint.
The information presented is for educational purposes only. Speak to your doctor to decide if joint replacement surgery is right for you. Individual results vary and not all patients will return to the same postoperative activity level. The lifetime of any joint replacement is limited and varies with each individual. Your doctor will counsel you about how to best maintain your activities in order to potentially prolong the lifetime of the device. Such strategies include not engaging in high-impact activities, such as running, as well as maintaining a healthy weight. It is important to closely follow your doctor’s instructions regarding post-surgery activity, treatment and follow-up care. Ask your doctor if the joint replacement is right for you.
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