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When Is It Time to Have A Knee Replacement?

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

For all too many adults, knee pain is a common occurrence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that “nearly 1 in 2 people may develop symptomatic knee OA by age 85 years.” For obese individuals, that risk increases to 2 in 3.

It’s no wonder that so many patients have total knee replacement surgery. “In 2011, there were 757,000 knee replacement procedures performed, primarily for arthritis,” according to the CDC. That’s more than the number of hip replacement, shoulder replacement, and other joint replacement procedures combined.

How Do You Know When It’s Time?

At what point should you consider surgery as a treatment for knee pain? Unless the cartilage degeneration is already severe, I generally recommend patients start with the most conservative therapies available. Surgery–even common, safe procedures like TKR (total knee replacement)–should be used as a last resort.

Many of my patients at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics begin with one or more of these three strategies:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Medication. There are many over-the-counter drugs (oral and topical) that can help with inflammation and joint pain.
  • Physical Therapy. Strengthening the joint and surrounding muscles provides stability. Stretching and exercise can maintain and even increase the knee’s range of motion, which also helps with pain.
  • Weight Loss. Losing even just a few pounds takes a significant burden off your knees, and may be effective in reducing symptoms. For patients with a high BMI, this is a critical approach to consider.
  • Steroid Injections. Corticosteroid injections can provide pain relief for months at a time. While steroid injections are not a long-term therapy for knee pain, they can be effective for delaying surgery.

If/when these therapies have been exhausted, it may be time to consider total knee replacement. At Houston Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, I prefer Stryker implants for total knee replacement. I’ve blogged about the reasons why here.

Have Your Joint Pain Evaluated

Take the Arthritis Assessment

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Discuss Your Knee Pain Treatment Options

Learn more about the knee pain therapies that may be available to you at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics. Call (713) 756-5546 to schedule your appointment. You can also schedule online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.