Get Rid of Knee Pain Without Surgery
There are many contributing factors that may cause joint pain and arthritis in the knee. First off, there are 3 different types of arthritis that affect the knee—rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition, whereas post-traumatic arthritis is the direct result of an injury being sustained. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of knee arthritis, and occurs when the cartilage in the joint is slowly worn away. It typically occurs during middle age and then develops over time as the body gets older, muscles get weaker, and the body heals more slowly. The likelihood of an individual developing osteoarthritis is increasing if the person:
- Is overweight;
- Has relatives, such as parents or siblings, who also suffer from osteoarthritis;
- Has sustained a knee injury in the past;
- Has had to undergo surgery on the knee;
- Has a physically demanding job or is often engaged in hard physical activity;
- Suffers from other kinds of joint disease.
How do I know if I have osteoarthritis?
Due to the fact that there are a number of causes of joint pain, particularly in knee, it is an affliction that can occur to individuals of all ages. Whether it is due to a medical condition or external factors, there are a number of signs and symptoms that accompany knee pain and may indicate that it is time to seek medical attention for joint pain. These symptoms include:
- Stiffness and swelling of the knee
- Redness of the skin and warmth when touched
- Instability or weakness of the knee
- Popping or crunching noises when moved
- Inability to straighten the knee fully without pain
If you notice these discomforts and they are affecting your daily routine, then it is time to call your doctor and discuss the treatment options available.
Do I need surgery for osteoarthritis?
There are a number of treatment options available to individuals who are suffering from osteoarthritis and knee pain. The first steps a patient should consider when noticing joint pain in the knee is to examine their lifestyle—losing weight, maintaining a balanced diet, low-strain daily exercise such as yoga, and sleeping well can all help during the early stages of arthritis. Applying hot or cold compresses are also options to help alleviate pain and swelling, and splints, braces, or canes are also available to help manage discomfort and assisting with mobility. If the pain has progressed past the point where these options are helpful, then physical and occupational therapy should be considered. Physical and occupational therapists can help develop an exercise plan to help strengthen the muscles affected and to impart new ways of doing certain tasks that are easier. Doctors may also prescribe pain medication, supplements, or other kinds of medicine to help alleviate osteoarthritis before having to resort to more permanent options such as surgery. Glucosamine and SAMe are 2 supplements that are known to help diminish pain, while pain medications like acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium are also common recommendations. Although these options are commonly recommended, they are not always effective on their own. A popular treatment that is good at preventing the need for surgery is viscosupplement injections.
What are viscosupplements?
Viscosupplements are injection-based treatments that involve injecting a lubricating fluid, typically hyaluronic acid, into the strained joint. Hyaluronic acid is a fluid that occurs naturally within the body, most prominently in the skin and within the joints, and is responsible for providing hydration in the skin and lubrication within the joints. The amount of hyaluronic acid within the joints is lost over time, whether it is due to age or repeated friction or trauma to the joint. By injecting hyaluronic acid into the knees, the joint will move more smoothly and there will be less friction and rubbing between the joints, meaning less pain and discomfort. Because hyaluronic acid is biodegradable, the results of a treatment session are only temporary, with relief lasting from 3 months up to a year, depending on the patients and the product. Injections may be given every 3 months if needed. Popular brands of viscosupplement injections include Orthovisc and Synvisc.
Though viscosupplement injections are a very safe and effective treatment, there are some mild temporary side effects associated with treatment. These reactions are temporary and will typically resolve themselves within days of treatment without intervention. Side effects include:
- Swelling at site of injection;
- Redness and skin warmth at site of injection;
- Soreness in treatment area;
- Joint stiffness.
How do I know if I need viscosupplements?
As hyaluronic acid is incredibly biocompatible, it is a very low-risk treatment and can therefore be administered to patients of any age. However, there are a few treatment options that should be explored before receiving injections. Before any treatment options are settled upon, doctors will likely ensure that patients are engaging in a healthy lifestyle that includes low strain exercises like yoga or swimming, and watching caloric intake. If pain medication, anti-inflammatories, and manual therapies are not providing enough relief, then doctors may suggest hyaluronic acid injections. Patients as young as 40 who already suffer from knee arthritis have be known to receive hyaluronic acid injections, though every patient will be different.
Just as there many possible causes of knee pain and osteoarthritis, there are many treatment options available to those who live with the discomfort of joint pain and arthritis in the knee. Though many may consider surgical options such as knee replacement surgery, there are a number of low-risk options, such as viscosupplement injections, that can help restore comfort and decrease pain before resorting to more serious surgical options for osteoarthritis treatment.