Knee replacement surgery becomes almost necessary when you have knee osteoarthritis. It makes you suffer really badly, affecting your daily life activities and causing intense pain when climbing stairs, walking, or even standing up. If you’re suffering from chronic knee pain, you may be considering knee replacement surgery. However, that should be your last resort.
Knee replacement surgery shows promising results in many patients. However, it may not be the best choice for everyone. For instance, young people shouldn’t undergo surgery as the artificial knee typically lasts 15 to 25 years. After that, they may have to go for revision surgery.
Luckily, clinical studies have found many knee replacement alternatives that you can easily follow with a professional’s help. These methods can reduce your knee pain and even delay the need for surgery.
Remember, your arthritis won’t heal with any knee replacement alternative method; it can only minimize the pain and enhance your mobility. Here are the 12 most effective ones:
1. Weight Loss
Excessive weight can put high stress or pressure on your knee joint, leading to severe pain and restricted mobility. According to a John Hopkins study, obesity can lead to a high risk of developing knee arthritis, cartilage damage in the joints, and knee pain. Thus, it’s recommended to lose a few extra pounds to reduce pain and delay joint damage.
Research also shows that every extra 10 pounds can increase your risk of knee osteoarthritis by 36%. Meanwhile, losing the extra 10 pounds would mean putting 4 times less stress on your knees. In the beginning, losing weight may not be easy, but you can get help from a professional.
First, consult a nutritionist about developing a healthy weight-loss diet. Then, talk to a physical therapist and find exercises to help with weight loss. Some suitable activities that can actually help you lose weight include the following:
- Water exercise
- Strengthening exercises
- Neuromuscular training
- Tai chi
Many experts believe that exercising in a group is way more effective than doing it individually. Also, the activity you love doing will give you more promising weight loss results. Remember, losing weight or doing isn’t a knee replacement alternative, but it can help you relieve the stress on your knee.
2. Muscle-Strengthening Activities
A physical therapist will also suggest muscle-strengthening activities to reduce knee pain. These include straight leg raises, hamstring curls, wall squats, calf raises, leg presses, and many more. These exercises also promote knee mobility and strength, delaying the wear and tear of the joint’s cartilage.
A physical therapist will also apply ice and heat to your affected knee area to reduce swelling and inflammation. They may also ensure that you’re doing all the exercises right. It will help you get your desired results in a short time.
3. Hyaluronic Acid Injections
Hyaluronic acid injections are effective in reducing knee pain and improving mobility. Not only that, but these injections can also lubricate the joint, thereby enhancing shock absorption.
However, many research studies don’t support the use of these injections. Moreover, there is no strong evidence that proves their efficacy as a knee replacement alternative.
4. Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications
Many over-the-counter (OTC) medications also help manage knee pain and reduce it. When opting this way, your doctor will first recommend OTC medications for your knee pain, as it’s the safest option.
Some medications that help reduce knee pain include the following:
- Acetaminophen, a pain relief drug
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), topical and oral form
- Capsaicin, topical creams
If OTC medications don’t work, your doctor will prescribe stronger medications, such as duloxetine and tramadol. However, know that tramadol is an opioid that can be addictive on continued use.
If no OTC or NSAID works on you, tramadol is the only safe option to relieve your knee pain.
5. Corticosteroid Injections
Your doctor may also opt for corticosteroid injections to ease your knee pain. They effectively reduce the pain, swelling, and inflammation in your knee. You may start feeling relief in a few days, which may last multiple weeks.
However, some researchers have raised doubts about the long-term use of these injections. In fact, one study reported that people who were administered steroid injections showed less cartilage and zero improvements in their knee pain after 2 years.
However, the Arthritis Foundation Guideline for the Management of Osteoarthritis in Knee 2019 supports the use of corticosteroid injections for pain relief.
Acupuncture comes from old Chinese medicine that uses sharp, thin needles to relieve pain. The concept is to change the energy flow within the patient’s body to manage knee pain for some time.
The Arthritis Foundation Guideline supports using acupuncture techniques to manage osteoarthritis-related knee pain. However, it doesn’t define the actual advantages or risks involved in the procedure. Typically, people who opt for acupuncture don’t report any sort of complications.
An arthroscopic surgery involves removing bone, torn meniscus, and cartilage fragments from the patient’s body. It also repairs damaged ligaments in the knee to relieve pain. The surgeon uses an arthroscope, a camera that gives a clear view of the inside area of your joint. It is inserted into the patient’s knee via a small incision.
Arthroscopy usually involves a total of two to four incisions, making it less invasive than traditional knee replacement surgery. It is an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home the same day. The recovery period is also short.
The surgery may not be effective for all types of knee arthritis. Your healthcare professional will decide whether you should use this knee replacement alternative after evaluating your knee condition.
8. Cartilage Regeneration
Cartilage regeneration treatments are effective for knees with mild cases of arthritis and poor bone alignment. In these processes, the doctor typically replaces the cartilage instead of removing the entire knee joint.
There are multiple types of cartilage regeneration techniques for different situations. It’s recommended to discuss with your orthopedic surgeon to find the best option. If your doctor opts for autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI), they will take a sample of your cartilage, process them in a lab, and then replant them in your knee.
9. Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) targets the sensory nerves in your knee and brain responsible for sensing pain. Doing so helps the doctor control knee pain caused due to osteoarthritis.
However, RFA is just a temporary knee replacement alternative, as your nerves will probably grow back after six months. If this happens, you’re likely to feel knee pain again.
10. Knee Osteotomy
Knee osteotomy is the best knee replacement alternative for people with a deformity on one side of their knee joint. In this surgery, the surgeon cuts the affected bone of your lower leg. The purpose is to shift the weight away from the damaged part of the knee.
Knee osteotomy is great for relieving arthritis symptoms and realigning your leg to maintain your body’s balance. However, this surgery isn’t suitable for everyone with knee osteoarthritis; it’s usually performed on young patients with minor knee damage.
11. Walking Aids
Walking aids and devices help shift the load from your damaged knee to the other leg. This relieves inflammation, swelling, and pain, helping you carry out your daily activities easily. Some devices that help with knee pain include the following:
- A walking cane for body balance
- A knee brace for joint support
Kineseo tape is a knee dressing that promotes natural healing in the body. It increases blood flow around the damaged muscle and supports the easy movement of the joint. Kineseo tape can be an effective knee replacement alternative, as it’s believed to prevent osteoarthritis from developing or worsening.
Experts don’t recommend wearing modified shoes or special insoles as knee replacement alternatives.
12. Orthobiologic Methods
Many people with knee osteoarthritis avoid going for surgery and try less painful and non-invasive methods first. The two most popular orthobiologic methods for knee conditions are cell-based therapies and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy.
Both of these treatments harvest the patient’s own or “autologous” tissues, process them, and reinject them into the injury site to promote healing. That’s also the reason PRP and cell-based therapies are widely accepted by most patients’ bodies.
At CELLAXYS, we perform both types of orthobiologic methods to help you improve your knee condition and delay surgery for a long-time. Our experienced doctors will opt for any of the two methods depending on your condition.
These are also known as stem cell therapy. Cell-based therapies involve extracting healthy cells from two locations in your body. These cells are then processed and reinjected into your injury site to help you recover faster. There are two types of cell-based therapies depending on the location the cells are extracted:
- Minimally Manipulated Adipose Tissue Transplant (MMAT). This process takes healthy cells from your adipose (fat) tissue and reinjects them into your damaged knee. If necessary, the doctor can easily perform MMAT in different locations of your knee in the same procedure.
- Bone Marrow Concentrate (BMAC). In this process, the doctor harvests highly-concentrated cells from your bone marrow and reinjects them into your damaged knee.
Cell-based therapies take about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. They are outpatient procedures, meaning you won’t have to stay at the hospital overnight.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)
PRP has been preferred by many athletes for their sports, spine, and orthopedic injuries for decades. The process involves taking the patient’s blood sample, isolating platelets from the blood, and reinjecting them into the injury site.
Platelets are the healing components of our body. They primarily perform three functions in your body to promote healing. First, they release 10 Growth Factors for tissue development. Second, they attract healthy cells from your blood, and third, they develop a web-like scaffolding called fibrin to boost the production of new cells and tissues.
The more platelets in your knee, the quicker it will heal. PRP is completed within 45 minutes and is an outpatient procedure like cell-based therapies. Our patients have been reporting amazing results from both PRP and cell-based therapies, including longer pain relief and better mobility.