The knee is a complex joint which consists of bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons that make the movement of the joint easy but at the same time more susceptible to various kinds of injuries. Knee problems may arise if any of these structures get injured by overuse or suddenly during sports activities. Injuries to the knee can be caused by degenerative diseases such as arthritis, traumatic injuries, and sports injuries. These conditions may affect the bones and joints and, ultimately,the quality of life of the patient.
Treatment of knee problems can be divided into surgical and non-surgical treatment. Non-surgical treatment consists of 5 major categories: medications, exercise, weight loss, injections, and assistive devices.
- Medications: The most commonly used medications consist of anti-inflammatory medications or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Tylenol can also be used and is particularly helpful in patients who are unable to take NSAID medications. It is important to check with your primary care physician about whether it is safe for you to take these medications. Every medication has side effects which become more common especially when taken regularly for a long period of time.
- Exercise. Exercise is important to keep the muscles around the knee strong and limber. The most important exercises involve stretching and strengthening the large muscle groups around the knee, the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. This can be done with a home exercise program or under the supervision of a physical therapist. Often times, a physical therapist can develop a home exercise program for you after a few sessions.
- Weight loss. The knee joint sees 5 times your body weight. In other words, every pound on (or off) your body is 5 pounds on (or off) the knee. If you lose 5 pounds, that’s 25 pounds of weight reduction on your knee.
- Injections. There are several types of injections used for knee disorders. The most common type of injection is a corticosteroid injection which is a very strong anti-inflammatory medication which is injected directly into the knee. This calms down the inflammation in the knee which decreases pain in the knee. For degenerative knee conditions, such as arthritis, knee injections provide temporary relief—typically for weeks or months.
- Assistive devices. The most common types of assistive devices for degenerative knee conditions are a cane or a walker. If you are using a cane, the recommended technique is to use the cane in the opposite hand. For example, if you have right knee pain, you should use the cane in your left hand.
Patients consider surgical treatment of their knee condition when non-surgical treatments no longer provide relief. If you would like more information about treatment of your knee condition, contact the office of Dr. Charters to schedule an appointment today!