John D. Burrow, DO
As a fellowship-trained Joint Replacement Specialist, I see people every day for consultations about their painful knee arthritis. While I’m happy to expertly perform knee replacement surgeries for my patients who need them, I always advise against doing surgery until absolutely necessary. “Absolutely Necessary” means different things to different patients, as pain tolerances, disability and dysfunction are all particular to each person. What may be absolutely unbearable pain to one person may just be an annoyance to another.
So, what are my top three recommendations for treating knee arthritis without surgery? They don’t involve medications, rubs or injections and they may surprise you!
- Weight Loss – That’s right. Losing weight could be the best thing you ever did for your knees. For every pound you lose, it takes 4 lbs. of load off of the knee joints. Lose 10 lbs. and you get 40 lbs. of relief on your knees. That’s a darn good return on your investment. Excess fat tissue in the body causes the release of inflammatory proteins into the blood stream, which can further deteriorate your knee joints. Losing weight can slow or stop that inflammatory process.
- Exercise – I know, it sounds counter-intuitive. Doing gentle exercises to strengthen the muscles which support your knees can really pay off and provide significant pain relief down the road. The key is to start slowly, and be consistent with your workouts. Although you may experience discomfort during and after you work out, icing your knees and taking an NSAID before you exercise should help you manage. Exercise is important to maintaining joint health, for the remaining good cartilage, as well as for preserving motion.
- Bracing – The use of bracing can be extremely effective in relieving knee pain caused by arthritis. There are two types of braces that are typically used for patients whose knees hurt. An un-loader brace helps by easing the pressure on the side of the knee that is the most painful by shifting weight to the other side of the knee or a different area of the leg. A support brace helps by providing support and stability to the entire knee. Based on your physical examination and x-rays, I can recommend the brace that will help you, taking into account your anatomy, your work, lifestyle and activity level.