Sometimes, knee injuries or knee pain don’t require surgery, just a little TLC. As knee pain treatment is possible without surgery. For those with arthritis, physical therapy or steroid injections can be used to relieve symptoms before the damage or inflammation becomes too severe. Regardless of the knee condition you have, we will guide you and determine the best treatment option for you.
What are Some Common Knee Problems?
Many knee problems are the result of the aging process and constant wear and tear on the knee joint (such as arthritis). Other knee problems such as pain behind knee etc are the result of an injury or sudden movement that puts stress on the knee. Common knee problems include the following:
- Sprained or stretched knee ligaments. A sprained or strained knee ligament or muscle is usually caused by a blow to the knee or sudden twisting of the knee. Symptoms often include pain, swelling, and difficulty walking.
- Torn cartilage. Trauma to the knee can tear the menisci (pads of connective tissue that act as shock absorbers and also increase stability). A sprain can often tear the cartilage. Treatment may include wearing a brace during an activity to protect the knee from further injury. Surgery may be required to repair the tear.
- Tendonitis. Tendonitis can result from overuse of the tendons during certain activities such as running, jumping, or cycling. Tendonitis of the patellar tendon is called jumper’s knee. This often happens in sports like basketball, where the force of hitting the ground after a jump stretches the tendon.
- Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that affects the knee. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative process where the cartilage in the joint gradually wears away. It often affects middle-aged and elderly people. Osteoarthritis can be caused by excessive stress on the joint, such as repeated injury or being overweight. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the knees by causing inflammation of the joint and destruction of the knee cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects people at an earlier age than osteoarthritis. However, you may also feel sharp stabbing pain in knee comes and goes.
Possible Knee Pain Treatments Without Surgery:
Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise
When we experience pain, the natural inclination is often to rest or resist the movement of the painful joint. However, in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee, exercise can make the knee feel better. Many find it surprising that low-impact exercises are part of the first line of treatment for knee arthritis and have some of the best supporting evidence for symptom relief.
The low-impact aerobic exercise combines two basic elements of movement that can help with knee pain. The first is “low impact”, an exercise that moves the body without unnecessary strain on the joints. Biking, using the elliptical, and swimming are great examples of low-impact exercises that avoid high-stress activities such as twisting, jumping, or deep bending. The second important element is “aerobic”, which means sustaining the activity long enough (usually 20-30 minutes) to raise the heart rate and improve muscular endurance. Starting a low-impact aerobic exercise regimen, ideally 3-4 times a week for 20-30 minutes per session, can reduce pain and improve function in osteoarthritis knees.
Working with a physical therapist can also help relieve knee pain treatment. It is very common for people to overcompensate with their knees during activities such as getting up from a chair or walking upstairs. In addition, if the muscles in the hips, back, or core are weak or not functioning optimally, the knees often bear an extra load. Improving the function of all muscles and joints in the legs can reduce the load on the knees. Physical therapists can evaluate the way people walk and move to help optimize function and avoid overuse. Working with a physical therapist can benefit your knees and the rest of your body.
NSAIDs are often part of the first-line treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee. NSAID is short for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These medications have some of the strongest supporting evidence for improving knee osteoarthritis symptoms. NSAIDs work by reducing painful inflammation without the use of steroids or narcotic opioids. Some NSAIDs are only available by prescription, including celecoxib and meloxicam.
While NSAIDs are safe for many people for short-term use, they are not safe for everyone depending on medical conditions and other medications. Talk to your doctor to see if these medications are right for you.
Acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol) can also provide pain relief for osteoarthritis of the knee. However, studies have not shown as strong a benefit of acetaminophen as NSAIDs for knee arthritis. Sometimes acetaminophen can be used in conjunction with NSAIDs for additional pain relief. Talk to your doctor to see if acetaminophen may be a safe and helpful option for you.
Other classes of drugs, such as narcotic opioids, glucosamine, chondroitin, and other supplements, have less predictable results for arthritic knee pain and are not routinely recommended for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.
However, Minimally invasive therapies often involve injections of some kind, introducing fluids or gels with healing properties into or around the joint to reduce inflammation, provide lubrication, relieve pain, and promote healing.
Corticosteroids can quickly reduce inflammation and relieve pain from swelling that is putting pressure on a nerve or surrounding tissues
Hyaluronic Acid Injection
Your body makes hyaluronic acid (HA) naturally, but sometimes it needs a little boost. HA injections will give your joint the lubrication it needs to move more freely.
- PRP and stem cell injections
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are created using your blood, which has been centrifuged to concentrate the platelets in the plasma while removing the white and red blood cells. Concentrated PRP is injected into your joint to attract growth factors to the area and speed up healing. Stem cells perform a similar task, boosting your system’s regenerative power and relieving pain.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
RFA of the nerves that supply the knee joint is another way to treat knee pain after other conservative measures above have failed, including for people who have had a total knee replacement and still have knee pain. However, for many cases of knee pain, one or more of these more conservative treatments will put you on the road to recovery without the need for surgery.
Excess body weight increases the load on the knees. Since one of the goals of treating osteoarthritis of the knee is to reduce stress on the knee, weight management can be a very effective way to reduce pain.
When walking on level ground, the knees absorb about 1.5 to 2 times our body weight. This can increase up to 4 to 5 times our body weight when walking up and down stairs or when bending deeply. This means that a small increase in body weight can increase the pain caused by knee arthritis. Fortunately, this also means that a little weight loss can reduce the strain and pain in your knees. Lifestyle and dietary changes can have a significant impact. To help with this, we work with local doctors who can help design personalized weight loss plans for our patients.
Modifying your activity can also help reduce stress on your knees. The knees experience the greatest stress during activities such as walking up and down stairs, climbing ladders, or squatting. If certain activities or exercises cause knee pain to flare up, finding alternative ways to perform those activities can help reduce the frequency of knee pain. As mentioned above, a physical therapist can also be very helpful in teaching modified or optimal ways to perform activities while reducing stress on the knees.
Using an assistive device, such as a cane or walker, can help with knee pain flare-ups. These can shift the body’s center of gravity away from the affected side and reduce stress on the joint. Assistive devices can also help reduce the risk of falls if the knee gives way with pain.
However, we can design a knee brace that provides external stability to the knee joint. By applying pressure to the sides of the joint, the brace causes the joint to realign. Which in turn reduces contact between the two rough bony surfaces, reducing pain and increasing mobility.