Are you suffering from chronic knee pain? If you are, then you know how much this kind of pain can affect your quality of life. Knee pain can be caused by different things, but the most common cause of chronic pain is arthritis.
When knee pain is limiting the things that you can do, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the treatment of problems with bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and cartilage can diagnose the cause of your pain and offer many different treatment options based on your individual needs. Depending on the severity of damage in your knee, treatments can range anywhere from exercise, soothing ointments, or mild over-the-counter medications to knee replacement surgery.
Your health history – including what treatments have worked or failed for you in the past, your X-rays, and your physical exam results – will all give your doctor valuable insight into what options might work for you. If you have tried a number of therapies and are still bothered significantly by knee pain, your knee arthritis may be severe enough to require knee replacement surgery.
What Is Knee Arthritis?
Because your knee is one of the largest joints of the body and is so important for you to get around, disease or damage within the knee joint can significantly impair your ability to do the things you need and love to do. Each of your knee joints is composed of the bones of your upper and lower legs, strong ligaments and tendons that help stabilize it, cartilage and lubricating fluids that protect it and enable smooth movement, and a patella (kneecap). The muscles surrounding the knee also help to stabilize and protect the joint.
When you have arthritis, the cartilage in a joint wears down, the lubricating fluids diminish, the space between the bones in the joint narrows, and all of this leads to damage of these bones. Eventually, the bones in the joint will begin to rub against each other (which is often called bone-on-bone) and bone spurs will develop, causing even more pain.
There are many different types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis, but the most common type is osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis). In fact, over 30 million people in the United States are burdened with osteoarthritis, including young athletes. It is a progressive condition, warranting different treatments depending on its stage. The more severe forms of osteoarthritis are often treated with joint replacement surgery, especially knee replacement surgery.
What Are the Stages of Osteoarthritis?
There are four stages of osteoarthritis. You probably wouldn’t know if you had stage 1. In this stage there is minor wear and tear on your knee joint and possibly some bone spurs forming.
In stage 2 (mild), you will probably begin having minor symptoms like pain when you first get up from sleeping, after sitting for a long time, or after exercise. Your X-rays will begin to show signs of arthritis, and simple remedies like stretching, exercise, and knee braces will ease your symptoms.
Stage 3 is considered moderate arthritis, and your symptoms will be more frequent and more significant. In this stage, the cartilage in the joint is wearing down, the space between the bones of the joint is narrowing, and more bone spurs will develop. In knee arthritis, pain and inflammation will be more pronounced when walking, running, and squatting, and treatments include over-the-counter medications, physical therapy, and possibly therapeutic injections in the joint.
Stage 4 is the most severe form of osteoarthritis and is characterized by a greater degree and increased frequency of pain. This arthritis pain is so severe, it will limit normal activity when it affects the knee – anything from enjoying your daily walk to standing while cooking a meal.
People with severe knee arthritis usually get no or very limited relief from noninvasive treatments, and they will usually be recommended to have knee replacement surgery.
What Is Knee Replacement Surgery?
When your knee joint has become so damaged from arthritis that movement is always painful, knee replacement surgery can return you to an active life again. As the name implies, during knee replacement surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will remove your damaged joint and replace it with a prosthetic joint made of metal, ceramic, plastic, or a combination of these materials.
It is one of the most common and successful orthopedic surgeries performed today. It is usually done under general anesthesia in a hospital setting, but outpatient knee replacement surgery is being performed more and more frequently.
When Is Knee Replacement Surgery Required?
Knee replacement surgery is generally recommended in more advanced stage 3 or stage 4 osteoarthritis of the knee. Your orthopedic surgeon will provide you with the information that you need regarding your unique circumstances and will guide you through the process of deciding whether to have knee replacement surgery or to try something else.
The overall recommendation is that when more conservative measures are no longer controlling your pain, and knee pain is significantly affecting your quality of life, knee replacement surgery would be a reasonable treatment for your arthritis. Pain and limited mobility of one or both knees can have long-reaching effects on your overall health and well-being.
With severe arthritis, you are more at risk of falling, which can result in an injury that can cause serious consequences. However, if you cannot participate in regular physical activity such as walking, you are at risk of gaining weight – which will not only make your arthritis worse, but will also make any other pre-existing health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure harder to control.
Knee Surgeon in San Antonio, Texas
There are many compelling reasons for having knee replacement surgery, not the least of which is returning to a life without pain. Our highly experienced and top-rated orthopedic surgeons here at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine can evaluate your knee pain and offer your best treatment options. Our goal is to improve your quality of life and get you moving again.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic doctors, call the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine today at (210) 692-7400 or request an appointment now via our online form. We look forward to hearing from you!