Deciding when you need knee surgery
Many athletes know the exact instant they suffered a major knee injury. Often there is a precipitating fall, jump or twist with an accompanying “pop,” followed by pain. For others, knee injuries result from prolonged use.
In either instance, knee issues can range from nagging but manageable irritations to situations in which every step involves extreme pain.
“When a knee problem affects your ability to do things, it can have a big impact on your life,” reports the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “Knee problems can interfere with many things, from participation in sports to simply getting up from a chair and walking.”
The knee is the largest joint in your body and one of the most complex. There are a wide range of treatments for knee pain and injuries and surgery is generally considered as a last resort.
Many types of minor knee pain respond well to self-care measures. Physical therapy and knee braces also can help relieve knee pain. In some cases, however, your knee may require pain management interventions to bring pain intensity down to a functional level.
Because each case is different and there are many available treatment options, those suffering from knee problems should consult with medical professionals experienced in treating knee pain.
Here are some of the considerations.
Types of injuries
Runners and sports enthusiasts often experience overuse injuries like iliotibial band syndrome, an inflammatory condition that results when tissue rubs over the outer knee bone. Prolonged overuse or knee injury can lead to osteoarthritis. Other common knee injuries include torn meniscus (the cartilage that covers the ends of the bone) and ligament injuries. These types of injuries are often sports-related.
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries affect 95,000 people a year, according to webmd.com. The ACL connects the thigh bone to the shin bone in the knee and these injuries are more common in women than men. Other knee ligament injuries include those of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL).
Novocur reports symptoms and signs of knee damage can include the following:
- Swelling and stiffness
- Redness and warmth
- Weakness or instability
- Popping or crunching sounds
- Inability to fully straighten or flex the knee
- Inability to bear weight on the knee
- Feeling as though knee gives out.
Diagnosing knee pain and injury can include physical exams, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, ultrasound, biopsies and arthroscopy.
In most cases, the treatment you choose will be determined by two factors: pain and knee function.
Obviously, pain is the condition that drives most knee-injury patients to seek medical attention. After an injury, if symptoms persist after three to seven days of home therapy with no improvement, emedicinehealth.com advises you to set up an appointment with your doctor or a sports medicine, orthopedic or pain specialist for an evaluation. Don’t wait if you can’t walk and you suffered a traumatic injury. Fractures and major tendon or ligament injuries might require immediate medical attention for proper healing.
Some people can perform daily functions quite well after significant knee injuries have sufficient time to heal. In contrast, for those who actively participate in sports like running, tennis, basketball, baseball, football or even golf, a knee damaged by injury often simply won’t work like it should. Regardless of the pain level, surgical repair might be necessary for a person to return to jumping, twisting, turning, etc.
There are many less-invasive options to try before surgery. In addition to physical therapy and pain relief medications, there are a few other new treatments such as PRP, Amnio Allograft injections and bone marrow stem cell injections. Radiofrequency ablation also provides pain relief by heating nerves that send pain signals to the brain. It is a brief, in-office procedure available only at a few specialized clinics. Some are even covered by insurance.
Knee problems are common and inconvenient, but with proper care and advanced medical treatment, skilled medical professionals can often get you back to the activities you enjoy most.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of health care experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.