Chronic Knee Pain Does Not Have to Be Permanent
This article originally appeared in Health Matters, a health
information newsletter published by Clinton Hospital for members of the Greater
Are your knees slowing you down and interfering with your active life? Have
you had to cut back on weekly tennis games, found yourself riding in a golf cart
rather than walking the course or had trouble getting up off the floor after
playing with the grandkids?
While there could be any number of
reasons for your knee pain, such as tendonitis, cartilage tears or ligament
injuries, it is best to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
The most common form of chronic knee pain in patients older than 50 years of age
is caused by osteoarthritis where there is little to no cartilage in the knee,
causing pain that interferes with daily living. While osteoarthritis commonly
affects folks who are overweight, it can strike a wide range of individuals,
including those who are physically fit.
Early osteoarthritis symptoms usually include pain or swelling with activity.
People may also feel a clicking when they move. While some people try to ignore
the pain for a number of years, others schedule appointments with their doctor
at the first sign of pain.
Early treatment typically includes nonsteroidal, anti-inflamatory medications
such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen, which are sold over the counter. Additional
treatments include activity modification, steroid injections into the knee,
injections of a lubricating substance into the knee and arthroscopy (viewing the
joint via a camera for further diagnosis). Eventually, these more conservative
remedies may not be sufficient enough to ease patients' pain, and knee
replacement surgery is a viable option.
Many doctors don't base the need for surgery solely upon patients' x-rays,
but rather on the level of their symptoms. Basically it's time when the pain is
restricting lifestyle. When someone is experiencing pain at night, pain that
cannot be relieved with ice or rest, or if there is difficulty walking up stairs
and getting out of a car, then it's time to seriously consider a knee
While the idea of a total knee replacement can seem daunting, both physicians
agreed it can often be the best option for patients with advanced knee
arthritis. Recovery includes a two- to three-day hospital stay post-surgery.
Some patients return directly home and receive visits from a physical therapist
and nurse, while others go on to a rehabilitation facility. This initial therapy
is followed up with one to two months of outpatient physical therapy, after
which the patient will continue to see improvement for a number of months